Two members of the Republican legislative leadership are calling for the appointment of a special investigator to decide if Gov. Jon Corzine's investment in a hedge fund creates a conflict of interest.
"It is completely unacceptable that Governor Corzine's hedge fund should be able to directly profit in any way, shape or form from government business or that the governor's actions and those of his political appointees can be called into question because of these personal investments," said Senate Minority Whip Kevin O'Toole (R-Cedar Grove) and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany). "A special investigator will put this issue to rest and ensure existing conflicts are properly corrected."
Corzine has a stake in TPG-Axon, a hedge fund that has a relationship with a private investment fund, Texas Pacific Group (TPG). A spokesman for TPG told the Star-Ledger last week that a firewall exists between the two companies and that they do not share investment information. The governor has declined to disclose the amount of his investment in the hedge fund, but his staff says it is in the one percent range. That means Corzine's personal stake could be as high as $90 million.
O'Toole and DeCroce say they want to "put to rest any lingering questions about Governor Jon Corzine's finances and what appears to be several serious instances where the governor's finances are in direct conflict with state business."
PolitickerNJ.com reported this week that TPG-Axon has a $52 million stake in two cable television companies regulated by the state, Comcast and Time Warner. A published report last Sunday pointed to TPG's purchase of stock in four Atlantic City casinos. Republican Christopher Christie's campaign has criticized the state's investment of pension funds in TPG, and TPG-Axon's interest in Hewlett Packard, which they say has received no-bid state contracts.
The GOP legislators are also calling for governors to put their personal assets into a blind trust.
"That requirement would ensure that a governor's actions are not motivated by potential gains to his or her investments," O'Toole and DeCroce said.
Sean Darcy, a spokesman for the Corzine campaign, says that the governor "has no input or control over the investments TPG-Axon has made."
"Factually, he has no discretion over the fund's investments and any suggestion otherwise is another desperate attempt to draw attention away from Christie's failure to pay taxes and do basic things he prosecuted other people for," Darcy said.
"Christie and his fellow Bush Republicans still don't want to answer to the fact that Mr. Christie didn't pay his taxes and ignored ethics laws by failing to disclose details about a real – not imagined – conflict of interest," said Darcy. "Chris Christie has a well-established pattern of having one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else, and now his campaign is desperate to do everything they can to distract away from it."
It was also reported this week that Christie bought and sold stock in Cendant Corp., a travel and real estate company, while they were being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney. Christie said the transaction was completed by an investment advisor.