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Influence For Sale
Author: BobR    Date: 2015-01-07 11:39:25

It was Abraham Lincoln who so eloquently stated in the Gettysburg Address that we had a "government of the people, by the people, for the people". The notion was an extension of our founding fathers' grievances as stated in the Declaration of Independence, when we were merely colonies run by absentee landlords. The Constitution was crafted to ensure we were a nation of laws to prevent the aristocracy and royalty from governing by fiat, so that the poor common man would have a voice in how he was governed.

How far we have fallen from that ideal.

We live in an age where money is granted freedom of speech, and laws that try to retain the original ideal of preventing the monied from asserting undue influence are ruled unconstitutional. There is a boldness among the richest, as the banks write legislation and pass it off to those they fund to pass it, and favors are blatantly traded for gifts and contributions.

Occasionally, in an effort to placate the serfs, the courts make an example of those who make no effort to hide their favorable treatment of the grafters and sycophants bearing largess. Yesterday, former VA governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison for his obvious influence peddling on behalf of Jonnie Williams, who showered the governor and his family with gifts. Some have complained about that a 2 year sentence was lax. I disagree, when compared with the sentences for other crimes. Nonetheless, he was convicted and - barring appeals - will actually spend time behind bars.

That should give pause to NJ governor Chris Christie. The news channels have been showing video of the governor in the box of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones celebrating their win over the Detroit Lions in the playoff game. Governor Christie - oddly, a Dallas Cowboys fan - has a relationship with Jones that goes back several years. So one would think that on the surface, this is not a huge deal.

However - Christie didn't pay for his seat to the game, nor his airfare - Jones did:
Christie officials acknowledged that Jones paid for Christie’s travel and tickets to recent Cowboys games. They assert that the gifts are legal under a separate executive order that aims to exempt gifts from “personal friends” of the governor.

This is important because:
... government documents show Christie personally pushed the Port Authority to approve a lucrative contract for a firm part-owned by Jones.
[...]
On March 19, 2013, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release announcing their selection of Legends Hospitality LLC to operate the observation deck on the top floor of One World Trade Center. The next day, the Port Authority board -- which is appointed by Christie and Cuomo -- specifically cited the governors’ announcement in voting to approve the contract for the company, which is jointly owned by the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and Checketts Partners Investment Fund.

The Port Authority press release announcing the vote quotes Dallas Cowboys executive Jerry Jones Jr. as saying: "We are humbled to have been chosen to operate the Observatory Deck."

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news that Jones has business with the Port Authority. That story followed an International Business Times report about how Christie’s acceptance of gifts from Jones may conflict with New Jersey ethics rules because the gifts followed Christie’s administration delivering big tax subsidies to the NFL.

This will only add to the hot water Christie is in over other issues:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also looking into the potentially improper use of bondholders’ funds by the Port Authority on projects in New Jersey and New York unrelated to the agency’s legal mandate. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Manhattan District Attorney are also jointly investigating the same issue. A long paragraph in the Port Authority’s latest bond offering (PDF) details these simultaneous and sometimes overlapping investigations, all of which are united by a common theme: the extent to which Christie, his staff, and his appointees allegedly tried to influence the management and priorities of an agency that has a 1500 square mile territory and a 2014 budget in excess of $8 billion. The administration has denied any wrongdoing and insisted the projects were legitimate candidates for the agency’s support.

When the Supreme Court ruled on Citizen's United, it seemed to open the Pandora's box for massive influence by Big Money. It seems the state and other lower courts, however, understand the difference between money talking and money finding its way into the garters of our elected officials.

42 comments (Latest Comment: 01/07/2015 21:30:58 by Raine)
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