The Star-Ledger is reporting that Gov. Jon Corzine has a stake in a hedge fund connected to the ownership of four New Jersey casinos, which potentially creates a conflict with state laws that prohibit state officials from business connections to casinos. Corzine says his investment in with TPG-Axon and is not related to its sister company, Texas Pacific Group (TPG), even though they share the same office and personnel.
This morning, Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie criticized Corzine for "a colossal error in judgment" and said the governor might be in violation of state laws.
"The real possibility of law breaking should have prevented Jon Corzine from putting his personal financial gain ahead of his role as Governor," said Christie.
Christie called on Corzine to disclose details of his TPG investments and divest himself of any casino-related funds.
"In the interest of transparency… any delay in giving New Jersey taxpayers the complete truth is a continued violation of their trust and will only further raise doubts about his integrity and the integrity of the government he leads," Christie said. "Governor Corzine's latest lapse in judgment raises many questions that will need to be answered in the days ahead."
Corzine's chief counsel, William Castner, says no conflict exists.
"No objective or authoritative source armed with the background and details of the Governor’s interest in TPG-Axon hedge fund can conclude that there is a ‘question’ that Governor Corzine has touched upon any statutory, regulatory or ethical guidelines or restrictions governing casino interests or even has come ‘close to the line’ on those guidelines," Castner, wrote in a memo to The Star-Ledger.
Stanley Block, a professor of finance at Texas Christian University who closely follows TPG, told the Star-Ledger that Texas Pacific and its network of affiliates, including TPG-Axon, are linked and that a public official’s investment in TPG-Axon could therefore pose a problem given TPG’s casino ownership.
Sean Darcy, a spokesman for the Corzine campaign, says that Christie "has clearly joined with Tom Wilson to try and create a distraction from having to answer for his disturbing history of failing to report a loan on his financial disclosure forms or tax returns and flouting his authority at accident scenes to escape consequences."
"Christie has always had one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else," Darcy said.