In 2007, Gov. Jon Corzine had a litmus test when it comes to pushing state legislators accused of corrupt acts to resign: are they seeking re-election. That's how Corzine came to call for the resignations of Assemblymen Mims Hackett (D-Orange) and Alfred Steele (D-Paterson) after their September 2007 arrests, but did not seek the ouster of State Sens. Wayne Bryant (D-Camden) and Sharpe James (D-Newark) following their indictments on federal corruption charges. At the time, Corzine's spokeswoman explained that Hackett and Steele were candidates for office, while Bryant and James had already announced they were not seeking re-election.
After Joseph Vas was indicted on state corruption charges last week, Corzine called for his resignation from the State Assembly. But now that Vas has said he won't be a candidate for a fourth term in 2009, will Corzine shift Vas from the Hackett/Steele category to the one reserved for Bryant/James? His staff says no, suggesting that Corzine has a new litmus test for the current cycle: hard evidence. According to a Corzine spokesperson, prosecutors had hard evidence – a tape – against Hackett and Steele, but did not have such evidence against Bryant and James.
But if one were to follow Corzine's logic, the governor's call for Vas' resignation would be rescinded under both litmus tests. Vas is not a candidate for re-election, and unless the Governor knows something that was not in Anne Milgram's indictment, no video tape of Vas' theft exists.
In 2002, Corzine stood by U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli after his colleague was admonished by the U.S. Senate for violating ethics rules, but two years later, he pushed for Gov. James E. McGreevey to step down at the time of his resignation, and not wait until three months later. And in case you forgot, here's how the story ended for the other four legislators: Hackett and Steele pleaded guilty, while Bryant and James went to trial. A jury convicted both ex-Senators.