Extra Manzo Stuff

Solomon DwekA hard-hitting new book skewers New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a career-long bully, opportunist and phony.

Ruthless Ambition: Chris Christie’s Appetite for Power by former New Jersey State Assemblyman Louis Manzo, left, harshly portrays the onetime early favorite for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination.

Louis Manzo"How could a man like Chris Christie get within shouting distance of a seat in the Oval Office?" Manzo asks. "What does this say about our justice system, and about us? If you think you know the whole story of Christie's rise and later fall from grace, think again."

His book is a template for a new level of scrutiny for Christie -- and for the media megaphone that enabled the New Jersey governor's election to two terms. As Christie also began term as chairman of the Republican Governor's Association in January, polling and pundits listed him as a front-runner for his party's nomination for president in 2016.

Ruthless Ambition shows that the recent bridge closing scandal was typical of the Christie’s team’s style of operation.

Manzo’s book thus constitutes a blow to Christie’s political career no matter who takes the blame in the end for the specifics of the September traffic tie-ups on the George Washington Bridgel. To recap, Christie's gubernatorial team intentionally tied up traffic on the world's busiest bridge for three days last September for unknown reasons. The bridge carries commuter and long-distance traffic between New Jersey (via the borough of Fort Lee) and the New York City borough of Manhattan.

The two previous books about Christie, 51, both written by New Jersey journalists, flattered his leadership. The slant typified Christie’s extended honeymoon with the media during his career as U.S. attorney and as governor.

Louis Manzo Ruthless Ambition CoverUntil recently, the vast majority of journalists have portrayed Christie as a centrist who is well-suited to state and national leadership, at least within the GOP, because of his persona as a blunt-speaking fighter for the middle class.

That view is counter to our experience at the Justice Integrity Project. For more than four years, we have reported Christie's abuses of power as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey from 2002 until the end of the Bush administration six years later.

Our research drew in significant part from the experiences of Manzo and his 43 co-defendants in a major corruption prosecution that Christie initiated. Manzo fought back and won dismissal of all charges from three indictments by both Republican and Democratic prosecutors eager to convict him to vindicate Christie and other brethren in the bipartisan law enforcement community.

Ryan Lizza, a political writer for the New Yorker Magazine, published over the weekend a long profile: Crossing Christie, What the bridge scandal says about the Governor’s political style, and his future. The article tracks the approach in Manzo's book, which has been distributed electronically to selected media such as the New Yorker for two weeks. Ruthless Ambition publication was announced this week, with sales to the public beginning June 1. Amazon.com lists the book as a best-seller based on pre-orders.

On a radio interview April 9 on the WNYC, Lizza told host Brian Lehrer and the audience, "If you readers are interested in this subject, Manzo has a sort of a Ph.D. on this at this point and his book is very interesting."

The column below reviews the new material on Christie, including my take on developments being given insufficient attention.

Chris Christie

Christie's Rise To Power

The fearless prosecutor fighting against the special interests on behalf of the little guy is one of our favorite civic heroes. But identifying actual examples outside the movies who can withstand close scrutiny can be a daunting task.

For one thing, a prosecutor inevitable faces a dazzling array of potential crimes with limited resources. So, some compromise is always necessary, whether in choice of targets or in investigative tactics. Even more troubling: If special interests have so much power why would they want independent and courageous investigators installed? Wouldn't it be easier if our heroes only seem that way?

Christie's career is getting well-established in the public record, including by Manzo and Lizza most recently:

As a hard-working party loyalist and fund-raiser, Christie leveraged his modest legal practice and local political success into appointment as New Jersey's U.S. attorney. Christie, a protégé of Karl Rove, had functioned as a moderate compared to Republican peers across the nation during first years of the Bush administration.

But the Rove White House was putting pressure on the Justice Department to use its powers in more partisan fashion by fostering the careers of "Loyal Bushies" as prosecutors. Christie, according to some reports, nearly lost his job in the unprecedented Bush mid-term purge of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 for political reasons.

Christie used his powers adroitly to attack Democrats and placate big-dollar allies, such as by deferring prosecution of several larger companies while forcing them to pay multi-million dollar supervisory fees to well-connected Republican lawyers as a condition to avoid prosecution. In one case, a major pharmaceutical company was required to pay up to $50 million to former U.S. Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft's firm to avoid more traditional criminal prosecution.

Christie's biggest case, the so-called Bid Rig III corruption investigation, provided no such leniency for its 44 suspects, including Manzo. Most defendants were local politicians. All but one Democrats from blue-collar Democratic areas in Eastern New Jersey near the Hudson River. Five were rabbis of Syrian descent.

The unusual assemblage of targets arose because Christie and his team developed a sting led by Solomon Dwek, a New Jersey developer with contacts among both politicians and rabbis. Dwek was seeking leniency from charges of committing a $50 million bank fraud and running a brothel.

Law enforcers provided Dwek with promises of leniency, living expenses and taxpayer funds with which to tempt targets into crime. Dwek's best political contacts were in Republican suburban areas. But Dwek and his law enforcement handlers focused their efforts on Democratic office holders and candidates attracted by Dwek's offers of campaign donations if the recipients might show their appreciation.

Christie resigned as U.S. attorney in December 2008 just before the end of President Bush's second term.

Christie's successor under the Obama administration was Interim U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra. Marra and his team groomed by Christie continued the corruption probe into the new year while Christie prepared a gubernatorial campaign against incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine.

Marra and his staff were ostensibly non-political and under the authority of the incoming Democratic president. Nonetheless, they timed their Bid Rig III arrests for maximum damage against Democrats during the summer of 2009 as the governor's race heated up. Corzine was vulnerable on several issues.

More than 300 federal agents fanned out in the biggest mass arrest in New Jersey history. All but one of the political defendants were Democrats.

One suspect was Manzo, a former state assemblyman and Jersey City mayoral candidate accused of violating the law in accepting Dwek's offer of a donation in return for help on a development project. Manzo disputed that he agreed to take money for any improper purpose.

Meanwhile, Christie won the governor's race, and hired a dozen of his former staffers for state jobs, including Marra.

As typical, the vast bulk of Bid Rig defendants pleaded guilty as Christie solidified his reputation.

Prosecutors received favorable media coverage, most notably in The Jersey Sting , published in 2011 by the St. Martin's Press and authored by Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin. They were reporters for the Newark-based Star-Ledger, the state’s largest-circulation newspaper. Authorities gave the reporters exclusive access that helped make their book a success. Margolin moved on to a job at the New York Post. I hosted him on my weekly public affairs radio show, Washington Update. He defended his book as fair.

The next year St. Martin's, a unit of the Germany-based Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, published Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power by longtime New Jersey journalists Bob Ingle and Michael Symons.

Both books have been described by readers on Amazon.com and elsewhere as highly flattering to Christie. Such deference is typical. Reporters need access to their news subjects, who have a great deal of discretion on which reporters to help in an era of newspaper layoffs. The Star-Ledger, for example, announced this week the layoff of a quarter of its journalists.

Manzo fought back, as did several other defendants who won rare acquittals suggesting over-reaching by prosecutors. Manzo won a federal appeals court decision that he had been charged under a federal law that was intended only for officials, not candidates.

Manzo is typically described simply as a former politician and criminal suspect who won his case and now authored a book. 

There's more, of course. He is a former town-level health director with a passion for the environment. He published a novel in 2003 about pollution dangers for New Jersey residents.

The indictment prompted him to fight back with rare determination, ability and success. He did so even though his brother was indicted also and pled guilty to corruption charges.

As part of the Justice Integrity Project's work, I witnessed Manzo's resolve to criticize law enforcement excesses whether by Democrats or Republicans and whether in his own case or in other situations nationally.

During the initial years of the Bid Rig case, the state's media was heavily pro-Christie and treated critics like Manzo as aberrations.

Christie was popular, and Corzine disgraced himself in a major financial scandal. For such reasons, Christie's brand of politics seemed an attractive mid-way point between tea party radicals and growing disappointment with President Obama, even in a blue state.

There were more subtle factors also, such as the founding of an important web-based insider publication, NJPoliticker.com, by David Wildstein, a high school contemporary of Christie's. Wildstein would go on to sell the publication to Jared Krushner, the wealthy son of developer Charles Krushner. Wildstein pursued career opportunities with Christie, most recently as a Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the George Washington Bridge, among other transport facilities.

I appeared several times on the New Jersey radio show Carson's Corner, whose host Bob Carson remarked that even the state's Democrats seemed afraid to tackle Christie on the kinds of issues that he, Manzo and I thought  scandalous.

Manzo, meanwhile, was winning courtroom victories with little public notice except for a few reporters in the Jersey City area. One of his most telling arguments was that it is fundamentally unfair for authorities to use someone so tainted and vulnerable as Dwek to offer bribes of taxpayer funds to affect local political races, especially when the targets are overwhelmingly from a political party different than the top prosecutor, Christie.

Manzo converted his legal arguments into a book, pubished by Trine Day, a small press based in the State of Washington. The press is run by Kris Millegan, son of a late covert officer in the CIA. Milligan says his choice of book is inspired in part by his father's experience and warning to his family that unchecked power by law enforcers and intelligence officers was becoming too powerful for a healthy democracy by the late 1960s. In that spirit, Trine Day titles include The True Story of the Bilderberg Group by Daniel Estulin, a best-seller, and several books by former law enforcers or assets challenging the Warren Commission's findings on the murder of President Kennedy. Judyth Very Baker, whose first book Me and Lee described her work and romance in 1963 with Lee Harvey Oswald, has scheduled a follow up this month, David Ferrie, about a man she described as their friend who died in 1967 before his scheduled testimony ae

 

Through most of Manzo's defense,

undertook a number of initiatves to been able to escape the Bush White House purge in 2006 of U.S. attorneys unwilling to use their office to achieve GOP political goals. as do Christie abuses in other realms as a two-term governor first elected in 2009 and re-elected last fall.

helping the Revelation of the bridge scandal was not inevitable. It began public only because of the dogged pursuit of longtime State. Sen. Louise Weinberg, a Democrat from Bergen County and of the few New Jersey politicians of stature to oppose him early on. She suspected that tie-ups on the George Washington Bridge last September were intentional, and quietly amassed evidence and allies in a legislative probe. The investigation hit paydirt in December with a cache of documents, and a series of resignations, firings and additional state and federal investigations now underway.

Christie's presidential prospects are negligible at this point even though many others, including potential contenders Bush and Mitt Romney, have an interest in keeping in keeping New Jersey's governor viable-looking as long as possible to prevent a fresher face from gathering momentum in the GOP's center-right field for 2016.

That said, my suspicion is the bridge scandal may be over-emphasized. My view is that Christie's below-the-radar work as President Bush's U.S. attorney for New Jersey from 2002 to 2008 provides material for additional scandals.

Beyond these developments, Manzo's book has helped expose the shallow performance of many in his state's political media, which I have studied also in recent years via the Justice Integrity Project's work on New Jersey court cases.

he new allegations and the media blitz parallel those that Christie orchestrated previously in his career against others. He created a public image as a GOP corruption-fighting legislator and U.S. attorney on his way to winning his state's governorship in 2009.

I discussed that history with New Jersey radio host Bob Carson Jan. 19 in an hour-long interview on his public affairs show, Carson's Corner, which can be heard here, among other places. In 2009 and 2010, we had examined these same Christie tendencies in previous Carson's Corner shows at a time when virtually all of the rest of the state's media had bought into Christie's image as a blunt-talking reformer fighting for the ordinary citizen.

We focused then as now on the unfairness and duplicity in Christie's overblown "Big Rig III" probe. As New Jersey's U.S. attorney under the Bush administration, Christie's groundwork for the probe swept him to the governor's office.

Christie hired more than a dozen of his former federal colleagues from the U.S. attorney's office for state posts, thereby illustrating how the so-called "loyal Bushie" brand of political back-scratching flourished under his supervision.

The Justice Integrity Project also reported evidence that the more than 40 indictments had been packaged by federal prosecutors to help him win office, not as impartial justice, as described in previous stories excerpted below.

More currently, a state legislative chairman issued 20 subpoenas last week for Christie associates and their organizations to describe why authorities inflicted traffic gridlock on Fort Lee for four days last September on the New Jersey side of the bridge across the Hudson River to New York City.

One of those ordered to testify is David Samson, a Christie appointee who heads the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that controls bridge operations.

Samson hired for protection Michael Chertoff, right, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary and former New Jersey U.S. Attorney. Among other jobs, Chertoff is founder of the Chertoff Group, which received a $1.2 million security contract from the Port Authority.

So he has close experience in cozy arrangements, as described in a special section about Chertoff's career in my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters. Chertoff is also an attorney with Covington and Burling, and it is in that role that he is representing Samson.

Let’s start from scratch with Ruthless Ambition and its author, a Democratic state assemblyman who ran in 2009 contended unsuccessfully for his party's mayoralty nomination during the spring of 2009.

Christie arranged for Solomon Dwek, implicated in a $50 million bank fraud and in running a brothel, to implicate local New Jersey politicians and rabbis into corrupt schemes.

Christie's team, led by an interim U.S. attorney Christie as governor later hired for a political patronage post. , led won grand jury indictments against ed Five rabbis of Syrian descent were accused of crimes in a dragnet that made headlines with the deployment of more than 300 agents in eastern New Jersey and the New York borough of Brooklyn to make the arrests. Most were accused of political bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, with one rabbi also accused of trafficking in human kidneys.

Manzo, a Democrat running for mayor of Jersey City, was approached via his campaign manager brother to hear Dwek, posing as a would-be contributor. Authorities claimed Manzo assented to help Dwek in exchange for a contributor, but Manzo says he walked away in disgust.

Overall, Christie’s successors timed the indictment’s announcement of the “Bid Rig III” corruption case for maximum impact in New Jersey’s governor’s race, which Christie won.

With the positive news coverage, Christie and his team looked like effective crime fighters. Dwek could win leniency for his own crimes. Most in the metro New York media applauded Christie’s bold initiatives, which coincided with separate scandals involving Christie’s rival, Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine. 

The new governor then hired at least ten of his former staffers for state jobs, as we have often documented at the Justice Integrity Project in stories on the case extending back more than four years.

As typically the case, the vast bulk of Bid Rig defendants pled guilty. Christie thus solidified his reputation as a corruption-fighter, helped in part by favorable media coverage. This is included two flattering book by two reporters. In 2011, St. Martin's Press published The Jersey Sting by reporters Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin of the Newark-based Star-Ledger, the state’s largest-circulation newspaper.

The next year St. Martin's, a unit of the Germany-based Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, published Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power by longtime New Jersey journalists Bob Ingle and Michael G. Symons. Each book has been described by readers on Amazon.com and elsewhere as highly flattering to Christie.

However, Manzo was among several defendants who individually (since they could not talk with one another) decided to fight the charges hard. Several won acquittals at trial, in part by attacking Dwek's credibility.

No one fought harder than Manzo. His case never got to trial because Manzo and his counsel argued relentlessly in pretrial motions that the prosecution was wrong on the facts, law, and fairness. Prosecutors from the Obama Justice Department sought to vindicate the Christie-era case with three successive indictments of Manzo to try to win a victory.

Ultimately a federal appeals panel ruled in 2011 that prosecutors did not understand that a well-known bribery law, the Hobbs Act, applied officials not candidates. The case ended but not Manzo's fight. He converted his five years of passion and paperwork into a compelling story about the modern criminal justice system as applied to political corruption cases.

He is bold and also reasonable in criticizing both the Bush and Obama administrations for unfairness and opportunism. But Chris Christie is big target, both as the man who initiated the Bid Rig investigation as a personal career-builder and as the man under the microscope right now.

T

I read the PolitickerNJ piece and see what you mean.

Here is my quote:
 
"This is part of the collateral of a false prosecution. I didn't "beat the rap", the government's "rap" was thrown out.
 
People forget, a government witness told the government I never took any bribes nor knew that my brother had.  The government vouched for the testimony of their witness as truthful.Case closed. Prior to that, here was only speculation, no tape and never any evidence.  
 
But the matter should not have even gotten that far, because the government and prosecutors broke the law in cooking up my false arrest. That is what is explained in the book.
 
It could happen to anybody, and as the book points out, probably happens everyday."

Here’s Krushner: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Kushner

What would be very interesting is if he were tied to that Rockefeller effort in, as I recall, Hoboken?

Jared Corey Kushner (born January 10, 1981) is an American businessman. He is the principal owner of Kushner Properties, his family’s real estate holding and development company, and The New York Observer, a newspaper publishing company which he purchased in 2005. He is the son of American real estate developer Charles Kushner and is married to Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump.

Kushner is the son of Seryl (née Stadtmauer) and the New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner.[1][2] He graduated from the Frisch School, a private, coed yeshiva high school in Paramus, New Jersey, and from Harvard University in 2003. His father had made a $2.5 million donation to the university.[3] In 2007, Kushner graduated from the New York University Stern School of Business and the New York University School of Law where he earned both JD and MBA degrees.[4] He has a brother, Joshua Kushner, and two sisters, Nicole Kushner and Dara Kushner.
 
In July 2006, at age 25, Kushner purchased The New York Observer, an influential weekly New York City newspaper, for $10 million.[5] Since purchasing the Observer, Kushner has pushed for changes that increased sales and created a new focus for the paper, moving towards a tabloid direction.[6] Kushner has been credited with increasing the Observer's online presence and expanding the Observer Media Group through a series of strategic new ventures and acquisitions.[7][8]
Real estate

Kushner was active in the Boston real estate market while an undergraduate at Harvard, and has increased the Kushner Companies' presence in the New York City real estate market as a principal in his family's real estate company.[9] The company's flagship acquisition was the office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007, for a then-record price of $1.8 billion. In 2011, the building's mortgage was restructured in conjunction with Kushner's bringing in Vornado Realty Trust as a 50% equity partner.[10]
LA Dodgers bid

In February 2012, he put a bid in to acquire the MLB team LA Dodgers.[11] He later withdrew his bid in March 2012.[12]
Political activity

Kushner is a major contributor to the Democratic Party. He has contributed over $100,000 to various campaigns between 1992 and 2006.[13]
Personal life

Kushner married Ivanka Trump, daughter of businessman Donald Trump, in a Jewish ceremony on October 25, 2009.[14][15] She gave birth to their daughter, Arabella Rose Kushner, in July 2011.[16] Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism before marrying Kushner.[17] Jared and Ivanka welcomed a baby boy Joseph Fredrick Kushner on October 14, 2013.[18]
References

 


Jersey Journal, Political Insider: Victim of 'Ruthless Ambition' turns author, Agustin C. Torres April 5, 2014.
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Louis Manzo, a former New Jersey General Assemblyman, talks to The Jersey Journal about his newly released book, "Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie." Manzo's book chronicles Christie's political career as well as his involvement in the Bid Rig III sting operation. Molly J. Smith/The Jersey Journal
Molly J. Smith/The Jersey Journal RA_Cover_300DPI.jpgView full sizeEx-Assemblyman Louis Manzo's book is mostly about Christie, from his political start to bridgegate, and the former Jersey City state legislator's experience as an Operation Bid RIg III defendant.Courtesy of TrineDay Publishing

There’s a new publication about one man’s political life “way back when” slated for release on Monday – and surprise, surprise; it’s quite topical. I’m sure you have space on your book shelf right next to Hudson County connected tomes like Tommy Smith’s “The Powerticians”; Dayton David McKean’s “The Boss,” a 1940s spellbinder; Holly Metz’s highly researched “Killing the Poormaster,” featuring a Hoboken you may not recognize but with very familiar names; “Five-Finger Discount,” Helen Stapinski’s eye-opening family tale of life in Jersey City; and Freeholder Bill O’Dea’s supposedly fictional and satirical novel, “The Legacy of Haguesville.” And now there’s “Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie,” by former Assemblyman Louis Manzo of Jersey City, who was one of a large number of political figures (mostly from Hudson County) indicted on corruption charges as a result of the FBI sting Operation Bid Rig. In Manzo’s case, the charges were dropped by a federal judge who did his best to ignore filed complaints about prosecutorial misconduct but left unsaid messages to the prosecution by whittling away their case. Whenever we'd call U.S. Attorney's spokesman Michael Drewniak  about Manzo's accusations, the response was always that it was ridiculous  and to just "consider the source." You would think that this is all about the sting operation, but while it does chronicle some of Manzo’s experiences from the day FBI agents handcuffed him in the summer of 2009, it’s about much more than that. “Ruthless Ambition” is a deep look into the political life and machinations of a governor and former U.S. attorney who had been in the national consciousness as a favorite potential candidate in 2016 to lead this nation. The author makes you believe Christie has more in common with Macbeth than Lincoln or Reagan. “Ruthless Ambition” begins with the George Washington bridge scandal that appears to have scuttled Christie’s ambitions. The lion’s share of the book follows Gov. Christie’s career when the 30-year-old lawyer begins his political journey in Morris County with his friend, confidant and fellow legal eagle Bill Palatucci. As governor, Christie gets national attention when Nancy Reagan selects him as a speaker at the Reagan Library in 2011. Every step of the way there are some wiseguy remarks from Manzo that many in Jersey City politics have come to expect.
For instance, he discusses a confrontation Christie has with a critic while the governor was eating ice cream on the boardwalk on the Jersey shore. Manzo gives a blow-by-blow of the infamous incident that was seen via video on the Internet by noting that not one drop of the ice cream hit the boardwalk and Christie’s comments were often punctuated with “lick, lick.”

byrne.JPGView full sizeGov Chris Christie speaks during a 90th birthday roast for Gov Brendan Byrne at NJPAC. Newark, April 1.Star-Ledger file photo

Manzo practically psychoanalyzes Christie when he writes about how easily the Big Boy (Karl Rove's nickname) manipulates those town hall meetings; Christie’s confrontation with reporters and critics (remember the governor’s description of one person as “numbnuts”); the burning of such “allies” as Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler, Mitt Romney, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean; a re-election that had no coattails for Republican candidates; and that bromance between Christie and Obama, apre's Sandy. What’s new is the former state legislator’s interpretation of the motivation behind all those incidents. It's almost as if whenever Christie says something, Manzo is telling the reader, "consider the source."

The one quibble some may have about the book is the publisher, TrineDay Publishing — a niche firm that has a number of conspiracy and whistleblower authors. Part of the thinking is that by leaving the New York publishing houses, it avoids the roomful of lawyers who might water down the prose. Manzo feels secure that the book’s facts are well-documented, and he provides a large bibliography and notes from several years of research for the timely book. It is a selling point used by the publisher in its promotions.

Having lost his home, business and bank account while defending himself in court, Manzo had difficulty finding work. all any employer had to do is Google his name and up came Operation Bid Rig III, but not the conclusion. He believes he may have found a new career as a writer. He has already finished a draft of a fictional novel based on an Irish Catholic parish in Jersey City – set way back when. Yeah, like politics, it's probably a comedy.

http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/04/political_insider_victim_of_ruthless_ambition_turns_author.html

 

 

A hard-hitting new book skewers New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a career-long bully, opportunist and phony.

Ruthless Ambition: Chris Christie’s Appetite for Power by former New Jersey State Assemblyman Louis Manzo, left, harshly portrays the onetime early favorite for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination.

Louis Manzo"How could a man like Chris Christie get within shouting distance of a seat in the Oval Office?" Manzo asks. "What does this say about our justice system, and about us? If you think you know the whole story of Christie's rise and later fall from grace, think again."

His book is a template for a new level of scrutiny for Christie -- and for the media megaphone that enabled the New Jersey governor's election to two terms. As Christie also began term as chairman of the Republican Governor's Association in January, polling and pundits listed him as a front-runner for his party's nomination for president in 2016.

Ruthless Ambition shows that the recent bridge closing scandal was typical of the Christie’s team’s style of operation.

Manzo’s book thus constitutes a blow to Christie’s political career no matter who takes the blame in the end for the specifics of the September traffic tie-ups on the George Washington Bridgel. To recap, Christie's gubernatorial team intentionally tied up traffic on the world's busiest bridge for three days last September for unknown reasons. The bridge carries commuter and long-distance traffic between New Jersey (via the borough of Fort Lee) and the New York City borough of Manhattan.

The two previous books about Christie, both written by New Jersey journalists, flattered his leadership. The slant typified Christie’s extended honeymoon with the media during his career as U.S. attorney and as governor.

Louis Manzo Ruthless Ambition CoverUntil recently, the vast majority of journalists have portrayed Christie as a centrist who is well-suited to state and national leadership, at least within the GOP, because of his persona as a blunt-speaking fighter for the middle class.

That view is counter to our experience at the Justice Integrity Project. For more than four years, we have reported Christie's abuses of power as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey from 2002 until the end of the Bush administration six years later.

Our research drew in significant part from the experiences of Manzo and his 43 co-defendants in a major corruption prosecution that Christie initiated. Manzo fought back and won dismissal of all charges from three indictments by both Republican and Democratic prosecutors eager to convict him to vindicate Christie and other brethren in the bipartisan law enforcement community.

Ryan Lizza, a political writer for the New Yorker Magazine, published over the weekend a long profile: Crossing Christie, What the bridge scandal says about the Governor’s political style, and his future. The article tracks the approach in Manzo's book, which has been distributed electronically to selected media such as the New Yorker for two weeks. Ruthless Ambition publication was announced this week, with sales to the public beginning June 1. Amazon.com lists the book as a best-seller based on pre-orders.

On a radio interview April 9 on the WNYC, Lizza told host Brian Lehrer and the audience, "If you readers are interested in this subject, Manzo has a sort of a Ph.D. on this at this point and his book is very interesting."

The column below reviews the new material on Christie, including my take on three developments being given insufficient attention.

  • The dangerous and unexamined role of politically motivated prosecutors in our criminal justice system
  • Manzo's unusual perspective
  • Shortcomings of media coverage, including pack journalism, conflicts of interest and snobbery

Chris Christie

Christie's Rise To Power

The saga of the faarless, crime-fighting prosecutor fighting the special interests on behalf of the little guy is one of our favorite civic lessons right alongside that of the fearless, civic-minded reporter who also exposes the bad guys. But identifying actual examples of either can seem like a chase for Bigfoot, but even harder. The fundamental problem in identifying courageous, successful opponents of the special interests is this: Why would the special interest want them installed? Wouldn't it be easier if our heroes only seemed to be heroes?

helping the Revelation of the bridge scandal was not inevitable. It began public only because of the dogged pursuit of longtime State. Sen. Louise Weinberg, a Democrat from Bergen County and of the few New Jersey politicians of stature to oppose him early on. She suspected that tie-ups on the George Washington Bridge last September were intentional, and quietly amassed evidence and allies in a legislative probe. The investigation hit paydirt in December with a cache of documents, and a series of resignations, firings and additional state and federal investigations now underway.

Christie's presidential prospects are negligible at this point even though many others, including potential contenders Bush and Mitt Romney, have an interest in keeping in keeping New Jersey's governor viable-looking as long as possible to prevent a fresher face from gathering momentum in the GOP's center-right field for 2016.

That said, my suspicion is the bridge scandal may be over-emphasized. My view is that Christie's below-the-radar work as President Bush's U.S. attorney for New Jersey from 2002 to 2008 provides material for additional scandals. Christie, a protégé of Karl Rove, had been able to escape the Bush White House purge in 2006 of U.S. attorneys unwilling to use their office to achieve GOP political goals. as do Christie abuses in other realms as a two-term governor first elected in 2009 and re-elected last fall. 

Beyond these developments, Manzo's book has helped expose the shallow performance of many in his state's political media, which I have studied also in recent years via the Justice Integrity Project's work on New Jersey court cases.

he new allegations and the media blitz parallel those that Christie orchestrated previously in his career against others. He created a public image as a GOP corruption-fighting legislator and U.S. attorney on his way to winning his state's governorship in 2009.

I discussed that history with New Jersey radio host Bob Carson Jan. 19 in an hour-long interview on his public affairs show, Carson's Corner, which can be heard here, among other places. In 2009 and 2010, we had examined these same Christie tendencies in previous Carson's Corner shows at a time when virtually all of the rest of the state's media had bought into Christie's image as a blunt-talking reformer fighting for the ordinary citizen.

We focused then as now on the unfairness and duplicity in Christie's overblown "Big Rig III" probe. As New Jersey's U.S. attorney under the Bush administration, Christie's groundwork for the probe swept him to the governor's office.

Christie hired more than a dozen of his former federal colleagues from the U.S. attorney's office for state posts, thereby illustrating how the so-called "loyal Bushie" brand of political back-scratching flourished under his supervision.

The Justice Integrity Project also reported evidence that the more than 40 indictments had been packaged by federal prosecutors to help him win office, not as impartial justice, as described in previous stories excerpted below.

Michael ChertoffMore currently, a state legislative chairman issued 20 subpoenas last week for Christie associates and their organizations to describe why authorities inflicted traffic gridlock on Fort Lee for four days last September on the New Jersey side of the bridge across the Hudson River to New York City.

One of those ordered to testify is David Samson, a Christie appointee who heads the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that controls bridge operations.

Samson hired for protection Michael Chertoff, right, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary and former New Jersey U.S. Attorney. Among other jobs, Chertoff is founder of the Chertoff Group, which received a $1.2 million security contract from the Port Authority.

So he has close experience in cozy arrangements, as described in a special section about Chertoff's career in my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters. Chertoff is also an attorney with Covington and Burling, and it is in that role that he is representing Samson.

Let’s start from scratch with Ruthless Ambition and its author, a Democratic state assemblyman who ran in 2009 contended unsuccessfully for his party's mayoralty nomination during the spring of 2009.

Christie arranged for Solomon Dwek, implicated in a $50 million bank fraud and in running a brothel, to implicate local New Jersey politicians and rabbis into corrupt schemes.

Christie's team, led by an interim U.S. attorney Christie as governor later hired for a political patronage post. , led won grand jury indictments against ed Five rabbis of Syrian descent were accused of crimes in a dragnet that made headlines with the deployment of more than 300 agents in eastern New Jersey and the New York borough of Brooklyn to make the arrests. Most were accused of political bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, with one rabbi also accused of trafficking in human kidneys.

Manzo, a Democrat running for mayor of Jersey City, was approached via his campaign manager brother to hear Dwek, posing as a would-be contributor. Authorities claimed Manzo assented to help Dwek in exchange for a contributor, but Manzo says he walked away in disgust.

Overall, Christie’s successors timed the indictment’s announcement of the “Bid Rig III” corruption case for maximum impact in New Jersey’s governor’s race, which Christie won.

With the positive news coverage, Christie and his team looked like effective crime fighters. Dwek could win leniency for his own crimes. Most in the metro New York media applauded Christie’s bold initiatives, which coincided with separate scandals involving Christie’s rival, Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine. 

The new governor then hired at least ten of his former staffers for state jobs, as we have often documented at the Justice Integrity Project in stories on the case extending back more than four years.

As typically the case, the vast bulk of Bid Rig defendants pled guilty. Christie thus solidified his reputation as a corruption-fighter, helped in part by favorable media coverage. This is included two flattering book by two reporters. In 2011, St. Martin's Press published The Jersey Sting by reporters Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin of the Newark-based Star-Ledger, the state’s largest-circulation newspaper.

The next year St. Martin's, a unit of the Germany-based Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, published Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power by longtime New Jersey journalists Bob Ingle and Michael G. Symons. Each book has been described by readers on Amazon.com and elsewhere as highly flattering to Christie.

However, Manzo was among several defendants who individually (since they could not talk with one another) decided to fight the charges hard. Several won acquittals at trial, in part by attacking Dwek's credibility.

No one fought harder than Manzo. His case never got to trial because Manzo and his counsel argued relentlessly in pretrial motions that the prosecution was wrong on the facts, law, and fairness. Prosecutors from the Obama Justice Department sought to vindicate the Christie-era case with three successive indictments of Manzo to try to win a victory.

Ultimately a federal appeals panel ruled in 2011 that prosecutors did not understand that a well-known bribery law, the Hobbs Act, applied officials not candidates. The case ended but not Manzo's fight. He converted his five years of passion and paperwork into a compelling story about the modern criminal justice system as applied to political corruption cases.

He is bold and also reasonable in criticizing both the Bush and Obama administrations for unfairness and opportunism. But Chris Christie is big target, both as the man who initiated the Bid Rig investigation as a personal career-builder and as the man under the microscope right now.

T

I read the PolitickerNJ piece and see what you mean.

Here is my quote:
 
"This is part of the collateral of a false prosecution. I didn't "beat the rap", the government's "rap" was thrown out.
 
People forget, a government witness told the government I never took any bribes nor knew that my brother had.  The government vouched for the testimony of their witness as truthful.Case closed. Prior to that, here was only speculation, no tape and never any evidence.  
 
But the matter should not have even gotten that far, because the government and prosecutors broke the law in cooking up my false arrest. That is what is explained in the book.
 
It could happen to anybody, and as the book points out, probably happens everyday."

Here’s Krushner: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Kushner

What would be very interesting is if he were tied to that Rockefeller effort in, as I recall, Hoboken?

Jared Corey Kushner (born January 10, 1981) is an American businessman. He is the principal owner of Kushner Properties, his family’s real estate holding and development company, and The New York Observer, a newspaper publishing company which he purchased in 2005. He is the son of American real estate developer Charles Kushner and is married to Ivanka Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump.

Kushner is the son of Seryl (née Stadtmauer) and the New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner.[1][2] He graduated from the Frisch School, a private, coed yeshiva high school in Paramus, New Jersey, and from Harvard University in 2003. His father had made a $2.5 million donation to the university.[3] In 2007, Kushner graduated from the New York University Stern School of Business and the New York University School of Law where he earned both JD and MBA degrees.[4] He has a brother, Joshua Kushner, and two sisters, Nicole Kushner and Dara Kushner.
 
In July 2006, at age 25, Kushner purchased The New York Observer, an influential weekly New York City newspaper, for $10 million.[5] Since purchasing the Observer, Kushner has pushed for changes that increased sales and created a new focus for the paper, moving towards a tabloid direction.[6] Kushner has been credited with increasing the Observer's online presence and expanding the Observer Media Group through a series of strategic new ventures and acquisitions.[7][8]
Real estate

Kushner was active in the Boston real estate market while an undergraduate at Harvard, and has increased the Kushner Companies' presence in the New York City real estate market as a principal in his family's real estate company.[9] The company's flagship acquisition was the office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007, for a then-record price of $1.8 billion. In 2011, the building's mortgage was restructured in conjunction with Kushner's bringing in Vornado Realty Trust as a 50% equity partner.[10]
LA Dodgers bid

In February 2012, he put a bid in to acquire the MLB team LA Dodgers.[11] He later withdrew his bid in March 2012.[12]
Political activity

Kushner is a major contributor to the Democratic Party. He has contributed over $100,000 to various campaigns between 1992 and 2006.[13]
Personal life

Kushner married Ivanka Trump, daughter of businessman Donald Trump, in a Jewish ceremony on October 25, 2009.[14][15] She gave birth to their daughter, Arabella Rose Kushner, in July 2011.[16] Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism before marrying Kushner.[17] Jared and Ivanka welcomed a baby boy Joseph Fredrick Kushner on October 14, 2013.[18]
References

 


Jersey Journal, Political Insider: Victim of 'Ruthless Ambition' turns author, Agustin C. Torres April 5, 2014.
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Louis Manzo, a former New Jersey General Assemblyman, talks to The Jersey Journal about his newly released book, "Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie." Manzo's book chronicles Christie's political career as well as his involvement in the Bid Rig III sting operation. Molly J. Smith/The Jersey Journal
Molly J. Smith/The Jersey Journal RA_Cover_300DPI.jpgView full sizeEx-Assemblyman Louis Manzo's book is mostly about Christie, from his political start to bridgegate, and the former Jersey City state legislator's experience as an Operation Bid RIg III defendant.Courtesy of TrineDay Publishing

There’s a new publication about one man’s political life “way back when” slated for release on Monday – and surprise, surprise; it’s quite topical. I’m sure you have space on your book shelf right next to Hudson County connected tomes like Tommy Smith’s “The Powerticians”; Dayton David McKean’s “The Boss,” a 1940s spellbinder; Holly Metz’s highly researched “Killing the Poormaster,” featuring a Hoboken you may not recognize but with very familiar names; “Five-Finger Discount,” Helen Stapinski’s eye-opening family tale of life in Jersey City; and Freeholder Bill O’Dea’s supposedly fictional and satirical novel, “The Legacy of Haguesville.” And now there’s “Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie,” by former Assemblyman Louis Manzo of Jersey City, who was one of a large number of political figures (mostly from Hudson County) indicted on corruption charges as a result of the FBI sting Operation Bid Rig. In Manzo’s case, the charges were dropped by a federal judge who did his best to ignore filed complaints about prosecutorial misconduct but left unsaid messages to the prosecution by whittling away their case. Whenever we'd call U.S. Attorney's spokesman Michael Drewniak  about Manzo's accusations, the response was always that it was ridiculous  and to just "consider the source." You would think that this is all about the sting operation, but while it does chronicle some of Manzo’s experiences from the day FBI agents handcuffed him in the summer of 2009, it’s about much more than that. “Ruthless Ambition” is a deep look into the political life and machinations of a governor and former U.S. attorney who had been in the national consciousness as a favorite potential candidate in 2016 to lead this nation. The author makes you believe Christie has more in common with Macbeth than Lincoln or Reagan. “Ruthless Ambition” begins with the George Washington bridge scandal that appears to have scuttled Christie’s ambitions. The lion’s share of the book follows Gov. Christie’s career when the 30-year-old lawyer begins his political journey in Morris County with his friend, confidant and fellow legal eagle Bill Palatucci. As governor, Christie gets national attention when Nancy Reagan selects him as a speaker at the Reagan Library in 2011. Every step of the way there are some wiseguy remarks from Manzo that many in Jersey City politics have come to expect.
For instance, he discusses a confrontation Christie has with a critic while the governor was eating ice cream on the boardwalk on the Jersey shore. Manzo gives a blow-by-blow of the infamous incident that was seen via video on the Internet by noting that not one drop of the ice cream hit the boardwalk and Christie’s comments were often punctuated with “lick, lick.”

byrne.JPGView full sizeGov Chris Christie speaks during a 90th birthday roast for Gov Brendan Byrne at NJPAC. Newark, April 1.Star-Ledger file photo

Manzo practically psychoanalyzes Christie when he writes about how easily the Big Boy (Karl Rove's nickname) manipulates those town hall meetings; Christie’s confrontation with reporters and critics (remember the governor’s description of one person as “numbnuts”); the burning of such “allies” as Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler, Mitt Romney, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean; a re-election that had no coattails for Republican candidates; and that bromance between Christie and Obama, apre's Sandy. What’s new is the former state legislator’s interpretation of the motivation behind all those incidents. It's almost as if whenever Christie says something, Manzo is telling the reader, "consider the source."

The one quibble some may have about the book is the publisher, TrineDay Publishing — a niche firm that has a number of conspiracy and whistleblower authors. Part of the thinking is that by leaving the New York publishing houses, it avoids the roomful of lawyers who might water down the prose. Manzo feels secure that the book’s facts are well-documented, and he provides a large bibliography and notes from several years of research for the timely book. It is a selling point used by the publisher in its promotions.

Having lost his home, business and bank account while defending himself in court, Manzo had difficulty finding work. all any employer had to do is Google his name and up came Operation Bid Rig III, but not the conclusion. He believes he may have found a new career as a writer. He has already finished a draft of a fictional novel based on an Irish Catholic parish in Jersey City – set way back when. Yeah, like politics, it's probably a comedy.

http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/04/political_insider_victim_of_ruthless_ambition_turns_author.html

 
Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 

Related News Coverage

Justice Integrity Project Coverage

Chris Christie and Barack Obama via WikimediaChristie is shown at left with President Obama in a photo courtesy of Wikimedia as they toured flood damage in 2012 just days before Obama's re-election. Christie's joint appearance and thanks to Obama were widely reported as bipartisan cooperation, but angered some conservatives.

Justice Integrity Project, How Christie’s Bridge Scandal Helps Jeb Bush Win in 2016, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 12, 2014. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a big winner so far in the political scandal and cover-up engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Justice Integrity Project, Christie Faces Probes, Smears Like He Inflicted On Foes, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 20, 2014.  Misconduct allegations mounted over the weekend against embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie despite his attempt to blame the George Washington Bridge scandal on underlings. New Jersey's U.S. Attorney office met Jan. 19 for several hours with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer regarding her claim against two top Christie aides. Zimmer has alleged that the aides threatened last spring to hinder federal relief for her city's Hurricane Sandy damage unless she supported Christie's picks among Wall Street investors for a Hoboken redevelopment plan.

Justice Integrity Project, Political, Legal Pressure Tightens For Christie, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 3, 2014. Political and legal pressure is tightening on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie following a former aide's claim Christie knew of the George Washington Bridge closing scandal last September.

Mitt RomneyJustice Integrity Project, A Mitt Romney Nomination In 2016? Andrew Kreig, Feb. 9, 2014. Don't rule out a Mitt Romney presidential candidacy in 2016. Romney might prove to be the default candidate as in 2012 even though I predict Jeb Bush will win the nomination as a late entry.

Justice Integrity Project, Defendant Claims Christie, Obama DOJ, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 17, 2011. A former New Jersey assemblyman defending himself on corruption charges filed on Oct. 18 a wide-ranging brief alleging selective prosecution in the 2009 case that helped propel Chris Christie to his state's governor's mansion. Louis Manzo requested also that the courts either vacate his most recent indictment as vindictive, or that his case be transferred to special prosecutor.

Justice Integrity Project, Court Slaps Feds Again For Christie-Era NJ Prosecutions, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 21, 2011.  In a major setback for the U.S. Justice Department and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a federal appeals court last week dismissed federal bribery and conspiracy charges against two New Jersey Democrats targeted in a trap set by Christie. Our non-partisan Justice Integrity Project has repeatedly pointed to the 46-defendant “Bid Rig III” case as one of the nation’s most scandalous political prosecutions of recent years.

New On Christie Rise To Power

NJ.com, Ex-Jersey City Assemblyman Louis Manzo's new book on Chris Christie discussed on radio, Staff report, April 9, 2014. Former Jersey City Assemblyman Louis Manzo's new book, "Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie," was a topic of discussion on today's episode. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza joined Lehrer to discuss his recent story on New Jersey governor, "Crossing Christie " during a 20-plus minute interview on Lehrer's show.  Excerpts: "He's written a very interesting book that gets deep into the issues of how Chris Christie used the office of U.S. Attorney. Manzo has a sort of PhD. on this and his book is very interesting." Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker

New Yorker, Crossing Christie, What the bridge scandal says about the Governor’s political style, and his future, Ryan Lizza, April 5 (dateline April 14), 2014. Chris Christie’s mentor, former Governor Thomas Kean, says that one of Christie’s flaws “is that he makes enemies and keeps them.” On April 1st, Chris Christie, the beleaguered Republican governor of New Jersey, attended a celebrity roast, in Newark, to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Brendan Byrne, the state’s governor from 1974 to 1982. “He’s an inspiration,” Christie told the audience, referring to Byrne, who won reëlection against long odds, because he has “shown that political comebacks can actually happen.” Christie sat on a long dais with five former governors and five local comedians, listening to the guitarist John Pizzarelli sing an ode to the state: “I may leave for a week or two, but I’m always coming back.” Christie was seated next to former Governor Thomas Kean, a longtime supporter, but he did not say hello or shake his hand, and he glared at the comedians as they delivered their lines. “You scare the shit out of me,” Stewie Stone said to Christie during his routine.

Chris Christie as Sgt. SchultzNew Yorker, Joy Behar Is Right: Chris Christie is “Toast," John Cassidy, April 7, 2014. Whatever else you do this week, carve out half an hour to read my colleague Ryan Lizza’s piece about Chris Christie and New Jersey politics. It’s Robert Penn Warren meets Carl Hiaasen on the west bank of the Hudson. By the time you get to the end of it, I bet you’ll find yourself asking the same question I did: How could we ever have taken this bully seriously as a Presidential candidate? In an era when elected officials are about as popular as burglars and bank C.E.O.s, the answer is that Christie cleverly created a public persona as a plain-talking, non-ideological Honest Joe—an anti-politician, almost—and the media, or much of it, went along with the spin. Even President Obama, by embracing Christie on the Jersey Shore shortly after Hurricane Sandy struck, contributed to Christie’s image as a decent man stuck in a bad profession and a nutty party. (Obama had his own motivations, of course; in the last stages of a Presidential race, he was eager to be seen reaching across partisan lines and dealing with the storm.) On the basis of what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, what we have here is not some tribune of the common man with a sharp political brain. It’s a dark, Nixonian character who plots and rages, who ruthlessly exploits his office for political ends, who intimidates opponents and colleagues alike, who publicly trashes his former aides when he deems it necessary, and who even double-crosses his oldest allies.

Jersey Journal via NJ.com, Ex-Jersey City Assemblyman Louis Manzo's new book on Chris Christie discussed on radio, Molly J. Smith, April 9, 2014. Louis Manzo, a former New Jersey General Assemblyman, talks to The Jersey Journal about his newly released book, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie. Manzo's book chronicles Christie's political career as well as his involvement in the Bid Rig III sting operation.
    
Hudson Reporter, NJ.com, Former Jersey City Assemblyman Louis Manzo's new book, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie, was a topic of discussion on today's episode of "The Brian Lehrer Show" on WNYC, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza joined Lehrer to discuss his recent story on New Jersey governor, "Crossing Christie" during a 20-plus minute interview on Lehrer's show. At the 25:51 mark of the clip (below), Lizza mentions Manzo's book and recommends it to readers interested in all things Bridgegate. "He's a Democrat, he's not a fan of Chris Christie, but he's written a very interesting book that gets deep into the issues of how Chris Christie used the office of U.S. Attorney," After having just lost the Jersey City mayoral race, Manzo was one of a large number of political figures indicted on corruption charges in 2009 by Christie, then a U.S. Attorney, as a result of the FBI sting Operation Bid Rig III. In Manzo’s case, the charges were dropped by a federal judge. The legal ordeal left the Jersey City native broke, having lost his home and business. The book is available on Amazon.com where pre-order sales placed it on the site's best seller list on the first day, Monday.

Jersey Journal, Political Insider: Victim of 'Ruthless Ambition' turns author, Agustin C. Torres, April 5, 2014. Slated for release on Monday: Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie by former Assemblyman Louis Manzo of Jersey City, who was one of a large number of political figures (mostly from Hudson County) indicted on corruption charges as a result of the FBI sting Operation Bid Rig. In Manzo’s case, the charges were dropped by a federal judge who did his best to ignore filed complaints about prosecutorial misconduct but left unsaid messages to the prosecution by whittling away their case. Whenever we'd call U.S. Attorney's spokesman Michael Drewniak about Manzo's accusations, the response was always that it was ridiculous  and to just "consider the source." You would think that this is all about the sting operation, but while it does chronicle some of Manzo’s experiences from the day FBI agents handcuffed him in the summer of 2009, it’s about much more than that. “Ruthless Ambition” is a deep look into the political life and machinations of a governor and former U.S. attorney who had been in the national consciousness as a favorite potential candidate in 2016 to lead this nation. The author makes you believe Christie has more in common with Macbeth than Lincoln or Reagan. Ruthless Ambition begins with the George Washington bridge scandal that appears to have scuttled Christie’s ambitions. Manzo practically psychoanalyzes Christie when he writes about how easily the Big Boy (Karl Rove's nickname) manipulates those town hall meetings; Christie’s confrontation with reporters and critics (remember the governor’s description of one person as “numbnuts”); the burning of such “allies” as Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler, Mitt Romney, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean; a re-election that had no coattails for Republican candidates; and that bromance between Christie and Obama after Sandy. What’s new is the former state legislator’s interpretation of the motivation behind all those incidents. Whenever Christie says something, Manzo is telling the reader, "consider the source."

Huffington Post, Christie Report Finds A Culprit: A Scorned, 'Emotional' Woman, Ashley Alman, March 27, 2014. A report on Thursday distancing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie from George Washington Bridge lane closures concluded his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, was behind the political payback scheme. The taxpayer-funded report also suggested Kelly's actions in ordering the lane closures were emotionally charged, because her boyfriend had just broken up with her.  According to the review, Kelly had grown dependent on Bill Stepien, her predecessor as Christie's deputy chief of staff. The report claimed Stepien broke up with Kelly right around the time she contacted then-Port Authority official David Wildstein, saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.

Rirchard Nixon and Roger Stone

Older Christie Profiles

Stone Zone, Chris Christie and the Wild Man, Roger Stone (at left with his much-admired leader, Richard Nixon), Feb. 3, 2014. "Admit nothing, deny everything and launch counter attack" is one of Stone's Rules, maxims for the conduct of political warfare that I have adopted based on a thirty year career in the corroded rectum of the two party system. It seems New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is utilizing my advice now that Port Authority Aide David Wildstein has threatened to dime the big man himself in the decision to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge as political payback. In an extraordinary e-mail widely "leaked" by the Governor's office on Saturday, Wildstein was depicted in essence as an erratic, irresponsible madman. Why then was Wildstein hired  at $150K a year to be Christie's enforcer and hatchet man at the PA? If he's so nuts, so crazy, so irresponsible how did he get this PLUM job? Christie's leaked manifesto doesn't seem to address these questions. When I asked a high level PA Executive I knew two years ago how Wildstein got hired I was told, "Chris Christie."

Main Justice, Supporting Cast in Christie Scandals: Former New Jersey Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Mary Jacoby, Feb. 6, 2014. When Chris Christie took office as New Jersey governor in 2010, he staffed his administration heavily with former prosecutors from the US Attorney's office he ran as a George W. Bush appointee from 2002 to 2008. It's an extraordinary development that many of those former federal prosecutors are now popping up as players in the scandals now swirling around the governor.

New Republic, Chris Christie's Entire Career Reeks It's not just the bridge, Alex MacGillis, Feb. 12, 2014. Has there ever been a political reversal of fortune as rapid and as absolute as the one just experienced by Chris Christie?  even post-Bridgegate, the prevailing interpretations of Christie fundamentally miss the mark. He has been so singularly successful at constructing his own mythology—as a reformer, a crusader, a bipartisan problem-solver—that people have never really seen him clearly. Over the past three months, I talked to more than 50 people who have crossed paths with Christie throughout his career—legislators, officials, Democrats, Republicans, lawyers, longtime New Jersey politicos. (Christie himself didn’t respond to a detailed request for comment.) The problem with Christie isn’t merely that he is a bully. It’s that his political career is built on a rotten foundation. Christie owes his rise to some of the most toxic forces in his state—powerful bosses who ensure that his vow to clean up New Jersey will never come to pass. He has allowed them to escape scrutiny, rewarded them for their support, and punished their enemies. All along, even as it looked like Christie was attacking the machine, he was really just mastering it.

Sam Adam Jr.OpEdNews, Governor Rod Blagojevich's Defense Attorney Compares Chris Christie's Situation to Blago's... and It's Not Pretty, Rob Kall, Feb. 4, 2014. I interviewed Sam Adam Jr., left, rated one of the top 100 defense attorneys in America, who defended former governor Rod Blagojevich he first time he was tried. I asked him to compare the Blagojevich case with Chris Christie's situation. He did, discussing how the case would be approached by defense and prosecution, and discussing advantages and disadvantages Christie has. Attorney Adam started off commenting, "I see Chris Christie having a lot of problems now under mail and wire fraud, maybe a RICO statutes as well coming down the line." I asked, "What about the criminality of Bridgegate?" Blagojevich defense attorney Adam answered, "Well the truth of the matter is there are so many laws on the books that you can get anybody for anything if you want to. Here is an individual who also is involved with a law firm that was being used to lobby on behalf of the Rockefeller Group. Now the Rockefeller Group is trying to develop in Hoboken, and he and his firm were out there lobbying for that group."

New York Times, Christie Knew About Bridge Lane Closings, Kate Zernicke, Jan. 31, 2014. The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it. In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago. 

Newsmax, Dershowitz: 'The Dominoes Are Beginning to Fall' for Christie, Todd Beamon, Jan. 31, 2014. Alan DershowitzAlan Dershowitz, right, told Newsmax on Friday "the dominoes are beginning to fall" in the spiraling bridge-gate scandal engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and said "I think he hasn't told the whole truth and is in trouble." The U.S. attorney should now subpoena the documents that were referred to in the letter and should sit down and talk to the governor," the former Harvard Law School professor said in an exclusive interview. "The governor so far has not spoken to law enforcement nor has he spoken under oath, so legally, he can lie all he wants," Dershowitz said. "He's not obliged to tell the truth. Politically, he may be obliged to tell the truth, but legally he's not. "But once he sits down and talks to law enforcement, he has to tell the truth, otherwise he can be prosecuted for a crime."

Washington Post, These are the GOP candidates who might benefit from Romney’s donors, Wesley Lowery, Feb. 28, 2013. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie and Rand Paul have the most buzz for 2016. Every single Romney donor we spoke with this week listed the former Florida governor as their top choice. Mitt Romney knows how to raise money. He collected more than $1.1 billion in the 2012 campaign, relying  on contacts he built during his time as Massachusetts governor, head of the Salt Lake City Olympics, years working in private equity, and as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And now, with Romney insisting that he will not run again in 2016, literally hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Republican money is up for grabs -- and donors say that they are already being courted by several potential presidential candidates. The donors said that -- like Romney -- Bush's time as governor proved he can be an effective leader and manager. His willingness to tackle (or attempt to, at least) tough policy initiatives such as education and criminal justice reform remind them of Romney's work on health care at the state level.Also, with solid name recognition and the Bush political machine behind him, Romney donors believe Jeb is the most electable of the potential Republican candidates. For Romney donors, electability is the single most important trait.

Hudson County TV, Ex-Secaucus Mayor’s daughter suing Governor Christie’s office, Staff report, March 18, 2014. The daughter of jailed former Secaucus mayor Dennis Elwell has sued the office of New Jersey governor Chris Christie under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act to obtain potentially explosive “color coded” dossiers on the mayors, their political allies and opponents in at least 100 towns across the state. Alexis Serringer, the daughter of former Mayor Elwell, filed suit Monday in New Jersey State Superior Court, Mercer County. The lawsuit, filed by New York investigative lawyer Eric Dixon, is available at docket number L-00563-14 and captioned as Serringer v. Office of the Governor of the State of New Jersey. The dossiers, whose existence was first reported by the New York Times on January 29, 2014, were allegedly maintained by the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs within the Governor’s Office. The New York Times reported as follows: “Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events.” According to Serringer’s lawyer Eric Dixon, this makes the dossiers “government records” which “must be produced” under state law.

Washington Post, Romney to fundraise with Christie for GOP governors, Robert Costa, Feb. 22, 2014. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will fundraise alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday in Boston. The joint appearance is a signal by Romney to the Republican establishment that he remains an ally of the embattled Garden State governor, whose administration has become engulfed by a bridge-closing scandal.

Bush Family and 2016 Presidential Race

Washington Post, Top Republicans court Jeb Bush for 2016 run, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, March 29, 2014. Conservative leaders, seeing problems with Chris Christie and fearing a run by Rand Paul, consider the former Florida governor the GOP’s brightest hope. Editor's Note: As predicted here months ago....

Washington Post, Getting the gang back together: Bush family, friends convene in Texas to celebrate H.W., Ben Terris, April 6, 2014. "It's like a combination between a college reunion and 'The Big Chill,'" said an aide to the 41st president.

Washington Post, Jeb Bush says he’ll decide on candidacy by end of year, Ed O’Keefe, April 6, 2014. Bush, a Republican and former governor of Florida, is thinking about running for president in 2016.

Washington Post, After years in the political wilderness, Bush family returns to the spotlight, Katie Zezima, April 4, 2014. The Bushes, one of America’s most prominent political dynasties, have spent the better part of the past few years under the radar after George W. Bush left office amid dismal approval ratings and as his father battled health problems. The family’s surge back into the spotlight comes at an opportune time. George H.W. Bush has seen his reputation morph during the past quarter century from a defeated one-term president who broke his promise on raising taxes to an esteemed leader who deftly steered the country out of the Cold War. The photo, via Wikimedia and Creative Commons, portrays the family in 2005 at the White House on the 60th wedding anniversary of George H.W. and Barbara Bush.

Manzo Background

Jersey Journal, Political Insider: Manzo talked back to feds from beginning -- and is off the hook, Agustin C. Torres, Feb. 18, 2012. "The Ghost Who Walks" is also known in comics as "The Phantom." It could also apply to former Assemblyman Lou Manzo of Jersey City. Today, Manzo is no longer under indictment on corruption charges. When Manzo was indicted in 2009 as part of the massive FBI investigation, he said his life was over, no matter the outcome. His date of death was July 23, when he was picked up among many politicians in a nationally publicized sting that saw 44 people cuffed and marched before TV cameras and news photographers. I'll skip the heavy details of the indictments. Let's just say that in May 2010 a federal judge tossed the heart of the case out, extortion charges under the Hobbs Act, which only applies to elected officials. Manzo was running for mayor and was not an official. As far as I was concerned, the prosecution was essentially over. The U.S. Attorney's Office then tacked on two superseding indictments, two counts under the Travel Act (going to another state to plan bad things) and one count of failing to report that others were doing bad things (taking bribes). Yesterday, federal Judge Jose Linares released a 60-page opinion that dismissed the remaining charges. While the longtime Jersey City politician won, it cost him his home, insurance business and savings to defend himself -- this after he spent a ton of money running for office. During his legal battles, Manzo was unable to find even a part-time job because the issue of his indictment would pop up.

Jersey Journal, Federal judge dismisses all charges against former Jersey City Assemblyman, Michaelangelo Conte, Feb. 17, 2012. A federal judge today dismissed all charges against former Jersey City Assemblyman Lou Manzo. In a stunning blow to federal prosecutors, a federal judge in Newark has dismissed all charges against former Jersey City assemblyman Lou Manzo, one of 44 people arrested in the massive corruption sweep of July 2009. In a 60-page ruling released today, Judge Jose Linares granted Manzo’s motion to dismiss all counts in his indictment. Manzo is accused of accepting more than $20,000 from a government informant, Solomon Dwek, who was posing as a developer seeking favors. Manzo, who was not an elected official at the time, but was running for mayor of Jersey City, was charged with two counts of extortion of under the Hobbs Act and two counts of violating the Travel Act, meaning he crossed state lines to commit a crime.

Jersey Journal / NJ.com, Decision on motion to dismiss corruption charges against Lou Manzo is delayed, Michaelangelo Conte, Feb. 7, 2012. The federal judge presiding over the Operation Bid Rid III corruption cases said this morning that he needs more time to decide if the remaining charges against former assemblyman and unsuccessful Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo will be dismissed, Manzo's attorney said. John Lynch, Manzo's attorney, met with federal prosecutors and Judge Jose Linares in Newark this morning. Lynch said that Linares told the parties involved that he expected to make a decision next week.

Jersey Journal, Former Jersey City pol says corruption charges against him part of effort to elect Christie governor, Michaelangelo Conte, Jan. 26, 2012. The attorney representing former Jersey City assemblyman and mayoral candidate Lou Manzo, left, argued in court today that corruption charges against Manzo are bogus and was part of a conspiracy to get Republican Gov. Chris Christie elected. John Lynch, Manzo's attorney, argued today that all charges against his client should be immediately dropped and that the probe was aimed at helping Christie get elected by embarrassing Democrats. He also noted that several assistant US attorneys who worked on the cases got state jobs after Christie was elected. Christie was US Attorney at the inception of the massive probe that resulted in charges against Manzo and numerous other Hudson County Democrats. The governor's press secretary, Michael Drewniak, today called Manzo's claims "total nonsense," and accused Manzo in a phone interview of trying to divert attention from the crimes he has been charged with. One of 46 people arrested as part of the Operation Bid Rig III sting in 2009, Manzo was accused of accepting more than $20,000 from a government informant who was posing as developer who was seeking favors. Assistant US Attorney Eric Kanefsky said today that for Manzo to show there was selective prosecution, he would have to prove that others in his situation were not prosecuted because they were not Democrats. He also said that if there had been a conflict of interest in the US Attorney's Office, there is none now since Christie and his closest allies no longer work there.
 
Jersey Journal, Daily poll: Were the Operation Bid Rig III arrests a ploy to get Christie elected governor? Jan. 27, 2012. Former Jersey City Assemblyman Lou Manzo says New Jersey's massive corruption sweep in 2009 was a ploy to help Chris Christie get elected governor. Yes 69.66% (124 votes) No 30.34% (54 votes). Total Votes: 178.
 Newark Star-Ledger, Conflict between N.J. politics, justice at heart of ex-Hunterdon prosecutor's lawsuit, Bob Braun, Feb. 2, 2012. Prosecutions and politics make a toxic soup. The mix endangers civil liberties and degrades support for the rule of law. When the power to prosecute is thought to be used for political purposes, who can trust anyone in authority? Just think of what is happening in Hunterdon County. Wednesday, one of New Jersey’s leading law enforcement authorities — granted, not a household name — sued in state court in Trenton, contending he had been fired 18 months ago because he opposed the prosecution’s dismissal of indictments brought against the then Hunterdon County sheriff and two of her employees. Bennett Barlyn, a former deputy attorney general and executive director of the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing, says he lost his job as an assistant prosecutor in Hunterdon in August 2010, because, he contended, "the Attorney General’s dismissal of the indictments was improper, unlawful and motivated by a corrupt  political purpose." Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, called the allegations "ridiculous.

Related News Coverage

Update: Washington Post, After years in the political wilderness, Bush family returns to the spotlight, Katie Zezima, April 4, 2014. The Bushes, one of America’s most prominent political dynasties, have spent the better part of Bush Family 2005 at White House 60th Anniversary Wikimediathe past few years under the radar after George W. Bush left office amid dismal approval ratings and as his father battled health problems. The family’s surge back into the spotlight comes at an opportune time. George H.W. Bush has seen his reputation morph during the past quarter century from a defeated one-term president who broke his promise on raising taxes to an esteemed leader who deftly steered the country out of the Cold War. The photo, via Wikimedia and Creative Commons, portrays the family in 2005 at the White House on the 60th wedding anniversary of George H.W. and Barbara Bush.Washington Post, Top Republicans court Jeb Bush for 2016 run, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, March 29, 2014. Conservative leaders, seeing problems with Chris Christie and fearing a run by Rand Paul, consider the former Florida governor the GOP’s brightest hope. Editor's Note: As predicted here months ago....

Washington Post, These are the GOP candidates who might benefit from Romney’s donors, Wesley Lowery, Feb. 28, 2013. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie and Rand Paul have the most buzz for 2016. Every single Romney donor we spoke with this week listed the former Florida governor as their top choice. Mitt Romney knows how to raise money. He collected more than $1.1 billion in the 2012 campaign, relying  on contacts he built during his time as Massachusetts governor, head of the Salt Lake City Olympics, years working in private equity, and as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And now, with Romney insisting that he will not run again in 2016, literally hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Republican money is up for grabs -- and donors say that they are already being courted by several potential presidential candidates. The donors said that -- like Romney -- Bush's time as governor proved he can be an effective leader and manager. His willingness to tackle (or attempt to, at least) tough policy initiatives such as education and criminal justice reform remind them of Romney's work on health care at the state level.Also, with solid name recognition and the Bush political machine behind him, Romney donors believe Jeb is the most electable of the potential Republican candidates. For Romney donors, electability is the single most important trait.

Washington Post, Romney to fundraise with Christie for GOP governors, Robert Costa, Feb. 22, 2014. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will fundraise alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday in Boston. The joint appearance is a signal by Romney to the Republican establishment that he remains an ally of the embattled Garden State governor, whose administration has become engulfed by a bridge-closing scandal.

Justice Integrity Project, A Mitt Romney Nomination In 2016? Andrew Kreig, Feb. 9, 2014. Don't rule out a Mitt Romney presidential candidacy in 2016. Romney might prove to be the default candidate as in 2012 even though I predict Jeb Bush will win the nomination as a late entry.

Justice Integrity Project, Political, Legal Pressure Tightens For Christie, Andrew Kreig, Feb. 3, 2014. Political and legal pressure is tightening on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie following a former aide's claim Christie knew of the George Washington Bridge closing scandal last September.

Justice Integrity Project, How Christie’s Bridge Scandal Helps Jeb Bush Win in 2016, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 12, 2014. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a big winner so far in the political scandal and cover-up engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

John Rymer IG Defense DepartmentFireDogLake/Dissenter, Pentagon Inspector General Moving to Shut Down Key Whistleblower Advocate in Washington, Kevin Gosztola, April 5, 2014. Pentagon inspector general, Jon Rymer, shown in his official photo, is reportedly moving to shut down Dan Meyer, an advocate for whistleblowers in the Defense Department. The inspector general is suspending Meyer and revoking his top secret security clearance in possible retaliation for his diligent efforts to represent whistleblowers, according to McClatchy Newspapers. The actions, McClatchy wrote, were because “Meyer and other Pentagon inspector general employees were grilled about whether they leaked a draft of a report that concluded that former CIA Director Leon Panetta and the Defense Department’s top intelligence official disclosed sensitive information” to Zero Dark Thirty filmmakers. The report was not classified, but the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtain a copy and posted it in 2013.

New York Times, Delays in Effort to Refocus C.I.A. From Drone War, Mark Mazetti, April 5, 2014. Despite avowals about the need to refocus the agency on its original missions of analysis, intelligence collecting and espionage, the paramilitary operations have proven hard to give up.