Gov. Jon Corzine has the advantage of incumbency and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s enlisting the help of his cabinet to make his case for re-election.
An email last sent last week by Corzine Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Matzen to 14 state department heads asks them to come up with “one or two or three” events to demonstrate private sector job growth to show that “the economic policies of Governor Corzine are working,”
“I know that it might be a stretch for some of you, but please be creative,” wrote Matzen. “While many programs might not have created jobs directly, they do have some connection to job creation either through training, giving money to sustain economic employment or create demand for workers.”
The email was not copied to any of Corzine’s campaign workers and avoids any reference to the reelection campaign itself, apparently providing a legal firewall between government and campaign activities.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign,” said Corzine Communications Director Stephen Sigmund. “Coordinating a message between the Governor’s office and his cabinet is pretty standard practice.”
Democrats note that Republican legislators — and Democrats, for that matter — often issue press releases from their government offices that strike similar themes to political campaigns.
New Jersey political experts contacted by PolitickerNJ.com acknowledged that there is nothing illegal about the cabinet coordinating its message, but they said it could be unethical.
“This certainly raises questions of impropriety,” said Montclair State University Political Science Professor Brigid Harrison. “That the campaign was not CCed does not necessarily mean that it is not being used for campaign purposes… I think it raises questions and was probably a bad judgment call.”
Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said that “it’s not unusual for an incumbent — and this is the power of of incumbency — to use that power to tout his accomplishments.”
“What he’s doing is legal,” said Murray. “Is it ethical? I don’t think it’s ethical at this point in time. It’s clearly done to persuade voters who are undecided.”
Matzen’s e-mail went to 12 cabinet member, Economic Development Authority CEO Caren Franzini and Schools Development Authority CEO Kris Kolluri. It did not go to the Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Public Advocate, Adjutant General, and the Commissioner of Education.