(Trenton) – Today, Chris Christie and his date on the campaign trail, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, are showcasing their affection for cronyism and fiscal mismanagement. Even Christie’s campaign spokesman says of the governor's relationship with Martinez, "having her on the trail is going to help us tell our story.”
Indeed, Christie and Martinez have a lot in common. Both governors are former prosecutors with records of abusing their official powers to reward their political allies and tank their state economies. Martinez, who Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics included on its "Worst Governors in America" list, is one of only a few governors with a record of job creation that is actually worse than that of "America's most overrated governor," Chris Christie.
Just four years ago, Christie was under fire for receiving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from federal contractors, Stern & Kilcullen; for hiring his supervisor, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, to whom he gave a job worth as much as $52 million; and for assigning a lucrative position to the former U.S. attorney who spared Christie’s brother Todd a federal indictment in a messy investigation into 15 Wall Street trading specialists that allegedly cheated clients through some tricky trading moves. According to the New York Times, "Mr. Christie ranked fourth in the S.E.C. complaint among the 20 traders who earned the biggest profits at customers' expense. The top three were indicted, as were 11 traders lower down.” Christie’s brother Todd was not.
Meanwhile, Susana Martinez, a former district attorney, was giving out about $477,000 to employees for "out of-cycle salary increases," nearly three times as much as any other district attorney in her state.” Martinez paid many of her employees using federal grant money from a program run by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies.
In addition, from 2003 to 2005, Martinez’s office purchased more than $60,000 in office supplies without a contract or competitive bidding process from a company owned by one of her top deputies. After being told by the Department of Finance to stop buying supplies from her employee, she bought from that employee’s niece.
“Ironically, six years ago Chris Christie might have campaigned on the promise of putting people like Susana Martinez in jail. Of course, that would have been disingenuous because he too enjoys abusing the system to protect his family and enrich his friends,” said Lizette Delgado-Polanco, Vice Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. “But that’s the Chris Christie record: pledging one thing and then applying a different set of rules to himself, all while burdening middle class families. We are pleased that Governors Martinez and Christie have found each other, but it’s time for New Jersey's middle class families to move in a new direction and to elect Barbara Buono on November 5th.”
While Chris Christie’s New Jersey has languished under increased property tax burdens and high unemployment, and ranks 44th in job creation, Susana Martinez’s New Mexico ranks dead last – a sinful statistic. Of course, the dirty little secret is that Governors Christie and Martinez continue to engage in risky business when it comes to the public trust.
Besides scheduling a $24 million dollar special election that resulted in voter confusion and the lowest voter turnout ever, Christie has been busy allegedly quashing an investigation into a political ally, funneling money through national Republican organizations to avoid the state’s pay-to-pay laws, avoiding questions about "potentially illegal" closures of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, awarding shady no bid contracts for hurricane Sandy recovery -- just a few examples of what may be considered, in the words of Mitt Romney’s background checkers, among “the garish controversies” in Christie’s past.
By comparison, Martinez’s administration is mired in her own controversies for financing an alligator hunting trip for two state police officers. The officers had planned a six-day hunting trip to Louisiana as a vacation, but, because the first gentleman, Martinez's husband, decided to attend, the officers collected their regular pay plus overtime. The officers were paid about $1,100 each, and taxpayers chipped in $630 in gasoline to fuel the state vehicle.
In addition, the former head of Martinez’s political action committee announced her compliance with questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation related to a controversial lease extension for the Downs at Albuquerque, a racetrack and casino. Despite objections, the New Mexico State Fair Commission used some creative procedural moves to approve a new 25-year lease for the facility after people connected to the Downs at Albuquerque ponied up more than $70,000 to Martinez's campaign.
Indeed, Susana Martinez's tenure as governor helps tell the story of Chris Christie's record. Sadly, that record is of scandalous corruption and failed economic policies.