Monday, December 14, 2009

Corzine Spreading The Patronage Around

Gov. Jon Corzine has just a couple weeks left in his term of office, and he's wasting no time trying to spread the patronage jobs around to his fellow Democrats. Usually, outgoing governors and incoming governors work together to figure out how to dole out those kinds of jobs - judgeships and other political appointees, but Corzine jumped the gun and started pushing his position without consulting incoming governor Chris Christie. Talks between the two camps fell apart, so dozens positions are being filled over Christie's objections.
Only minutes after Corzine and Christie parted company at the Newark swearing-in ceremony of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, Corzine’s office released more than 180 names for direct appointments and nominations to paid and unpaid posts.

The list was heavy with key Democrats, including labor leader Ray Pocino, campaign operative Patricia Mueller and the current and former chiefs of staff to Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex).

More than four dozen nominations — including to the Sports and Exposition Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, key government agencies with large budgets or regulatory authority — must be approved by the state Senate before the current legislative session ends Jan. 12. Christie, however, had previously threatened to use his allies in the state Senate to block as many of the nominations as he can.

The nominations came after two weeks of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations between top aides to Christie and Corzine failed to resolve the impasse. The dispute began when Corzine — without warning to the Christie team — submitted the name of his chief of staff, Ed McBride, for a judgeship in South Jersey. Christie balked and sent word that McBride would face public scorn if Corzine didn’t compromise on other posts.

"He really means what he says. He doesn’t talk in political-speak," Sen. Kevin O’Toole, the Essex County Republican chairman, said Monday night. "There’s some concern that we’re trying to jam every nominee through the pipeline in the last few weeks of a lame, lame-duck session."

Both the Corzine and Christie camps declined to comment Monday night. Earlier Monday, Christie said negotiations were ongoing and he was still hoping for a "successful resolution."

"If I ever got to the point where I felt like that was a lost cause, then you could be sure you would hear from me," Christie said at a news conference in New Brunswick.

While departing governors typically install allies at various state agencies on their way out the door, Corzine’s list is longer because of a backlog in nominations that was already built up before the governor lost his re-election bid.
What was Corzine waiting for in the first place? It is just another symptom of Corzine's dysfunction as governor to avoid doing the state's business and to deal with the financial disaster that is the state budget.

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