U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone doesn’t buy state Sen. Jen Beck’s explanation that she didn’t discuss the upcoming gubernatorial race with U.S. Attorney Chris Christie when the two met over the summer.
But even taking her at her word, Pallone said that it makes him wonder why Christie can meet with Beck, a Republican state legislator, and not him, a Democratic Congressman. Or, for that matter, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), who also pushed for a meeting.
“To me it’s abusurd. Because I’m sure they are talking about politics and his gubernatorial ambitions. But even if I take them at their word, I say that if you can talk amongst yourselves about what’s going on in your office with regard to Monmouth county and Marlboro, he can talk to us,” said Pallone.
Pallone and Pascrell have been highly critical of Christie’s decision to hire former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was once his boss, for a federal monitoring contract that could earn his firm up to $52 million.
Pallone and Pascrell wrote to Christie when that story came to light to ask for a meeting, but Christie refused. Citing Justice Department guidelines, he also refused a call from members of a House Judiciary subcommittee to testify before them (Ashcroft, under threat of subpoena, agreed to.
While Christie’s investigations into Monmouth County and Marlboro are closed, Pallone thinks that if he can talk to Beck about that, he can talk to them about deferred prosecution agreement.
“You’re talking to politicians about what’s happening in your office. We’re asking from a good government perspective, and the state Senator is talking from a good government and public policy perspective, and he says he won’t talk about the monitors and how he hired Ashcroft,” said Pallone.
Pascrell, for his part, showed less skepticism about the stated explanation about Christie's meeting with Beck.
“I find it difficult to believe that the U.S. Attorney would violate his public oath by discussing his political future with a member of the State Senate. But if true, this would be a serious conflict of interest and ethical violation, " he said.
Nevertheless, Pascrell made the same point as Pallone.
“On the other hand, if Mr. Christie was discussing the investigations in Monmouth County that Senator Beck alluded to, one has to wonder why he would resist discussing potential conflicts of interest in his own office with Congress. Congressman Pallone and I have been trying to discuss the U.S. Attorney’s work with him for months," he said.
"If Mr. Christie has a change of heart, I want him to know that our invitation still stands.”