Christie defends his ethics reform commitment

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WESTFIELD – Gov. Chris Christie has been accused in the media – and today at his town hall – for letting ethics reform, a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, fall by the wayside midway through his first term in office.

Christie continued a he-said-she-said with the Democratic Legislature over which party was the most silent on ethics reform; each side said it was the other who never mentioned it.

“Wait a second,” Christie said: his administration rolled out an ethics reform package in September 2010. The package included an omnibus ethics bill ending dual government employment and dual office holding; requiring pension forfeiture by convicted public officials; prohibiting campaign fund use for criminal defense; and redefining conflict of interest for legislators by making recusal mandatory for direct financial conflict.

Another initiative would have imposed a uniform standard for awarding contracts at all levels and branches of government in the state and expanded the reach of the pay-to-play law to make public labor unions subject to the same contribution and disclosure obligations as other entities. The package also included a restriction on “wheeling,” the transfer of political donations to circumvent campaign financing laws.

Christie told the audience of over 600 people crammed into the Westfield National Guard Armory today: “That’s not being silent; being silent’s what they are (doing).”

He said that the ethics reforms are still on the table, that he would re-engage the Legislature the best he could, and that he will continue to talk about the need for reform at his town halls.

But Christie said that given the fundraising advantage Democrats hold, he is not at all confident that the reforms will be well received.

Christie defends his ethics reform commitment