Daggett Wins Big on Ethics while Corzine and Christie Self Destruct


Over at CQ Politics on Replaying the Ethics Card in New Jersey Emily Cadei, CQ-Roll Call point out that Chris Daggett is winning big on the ethics scorecard

The renewed focus on good government stems from a series of revelations raising questions about the propriety of the political operations of both major party nominees for governor: Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie.

The report goes onto state that Chris Daggett’s recent surge in the polls is due to a steady stream of corruption and ethics scandals hitting news and also pointed out that Daggett stung both Corzine and Christie on engaging in a form of corruption known as pay to play.

Daggett Wins Big on Ethics Card In Governor Race

The New Jersey governor’s race has been dominated by discussions on the economy and taxes, but the debate over ethics — an issue never far from the surface in Garden State politics — is regaining prominence with just more than a week until Election Day.

The renewed focus on good government stems from a series of revelations raising questions about the propriety of the political operations of both major party nominees for governor: Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie. This was capped by the conviction Thursday afternoon of Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero on conspiracy and mail-fraud charges.

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Christie, a former U.S. attorney who has touted his history as a corruption buster, immediately sought to tie Ferriero’s conviction to Corzine. During Ferriero’s tenure as chairman, Corzine donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party organization in Bergen, which is located in suburban New York City and is New Jersey’s most populous county.

In a radio debate Thursday night, Christie said that while he believes “the governor’s an honest man … the fact is that his money has enabled people like Joe Ferriero to remain in power.”

Corzine retorted, “When I have written checks to the Bergen County Democratic Committee, it is not to Joe Ferriero. It is for purposes of electing [Democrats like] Barack Obama , Al Gore, and Frank Lautenberg.” The governor was referring to Obama’s and Gore’s respective presidential bids in 2008 and 2000 and Lautenberg’s successful campaigns for the U.S. Senate.

Corzine also pointed to his support for Loretta Weinberg, now his lieutenant governor running mate, when she clashed with Ferriero in a battle for her Bergen County-based state Senate seat.

Ferriero’s conviction came as the candidates’ campaigns have sought to raise questions about the other’s ethics. The Corzine campaign is playing up a story the New York Times broke Oct. 19, suggesting Michele Brown, a top aide to Christie in the federal prosecutor’s office, may have improperly aided his campaign. Corzine aides have also called for the New Jersey U.S. attorney’s office to release documents on Christie’s tenure there, which the campaign requested under the Freedom of Information Act months ago. It was Brown who oversaw the initial response to the inquiries, they noted.

On the other end, the Christie campaign has been calling out Corzine for a lack of transparency surrounding his charitable foundation. The Newark Star-Ledger created a stir Oct. 20 when it reported that Corzine donated nearly $90,000 last year to the congregation of Rev. Reginald Jackson, who made an influential endorsement of Corzine last week. On Thursday, Corzine released records detailing more than $3 million in donations in 2008, the Star-Ledger reported, but did not release 2009 records.

Christie enjoys an advantage on the corruption issue among the electorate, with voters who responded to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll released Oct. 20 saying they think Christie would do a better job on that front.

But the back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans on ethics may ultimately benefit Chris Daggett, running an unusually strong third-party bid as an independent, who has gained traction in the race by portraying himself as above such frays.

Daggett, a former high-ranking environmental policy official in the federal and state governments, emphasized “a pox on both your houses” approach in Thursday’s debate. Referring to allegations of contracting abuse in their public offices, Daggett declared, “Both of my opponents have said they’re against pay-to-play. And both of them have used money to get around the system.”

In his closing statement he said, “Democrats and Republicans have made a mess of this state, and neither of my opponents have a plan to deal with it.”

Indeed, Daggett’s standing in the polls has risen as voters grow increasingly alienated with their two major party options. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll out this week pegged Daggett’s support, including voters who are leaning in his direction, at 20 percent, with Corzine and Christie splitting the remaining 80 percent roughly in half in the Tossup race. It also shows Corzine and Christie continue to face negative approval ratings.

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