Revelations yesterday that Christopher Christie did not report a personal loan he made to a former top deputy at the U.S. Attorney’s office is the latest in a series of self-inflicted wounds that could cost him the race for governor. Christie had solid lead over Gov. Jon Corzine in last week’s Quinnipiac poll (51%), but his own mistakes are helping the Democrats regain some lost ground. The conventional wisdom among many political insiders is that Corzine, enormously unpopular with voters, cannot win the election, but he can make Christie lose by spending enough to raise the negatives of his Republican rival.
Making a personal loan to a close family friend is not a political liability; indeed, Corzine has made plenty of financial gifts — sometimes to people he doesn’t even like. Christie’s problem here is that he did not report that loan on personal financial disclosure statements required by the Department of Justice. News last week that Christie discussed his upcoming campaign for governor with former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove helps Corzine paint Christie as a conservative Republican close to an unpopular former president. Christie’s decisions – apparently legal – to award no-bid public monitor contracts to: former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft; David Kelley, who was the U.S. Attorney in New York who decided not to prosecute Christie’s brother for illegal trading violations; and to close political allies Herbert Stern and John Inglesino, who later made major contributions to Christie’s campaign, are all self-inflicted wounds. Christie’s greatest attribute is his record taking down corrupt politicians. His greatest problem, at least right now, is that Corzine can afford to turn each of these issues into 30-second TV ads.
Updated: Christie did not report income from the loan on his federal tax return, according to a New York Times story.
Corzine’s chutzpah is clear, although in blue New Jersey that might not matter. The governor has not exactly been the poster child for full transparency. Starting back in 2000, he lost ground when he refused to release his income taxes (he hid behind a Goldman Sachs partnership agreement that was less important a few years later when his ex-partner, Henry Paulsen, became U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. He has declined to release his personal e-mail correspondence with Carla Katz, who was both his girlfriend and the president of the state’s largest public employee union. He even posted bail for a lobbyist who was accused to stalking one of his closest political allies.