New Book Documents Christie's 'Ruthless Ambition'

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

Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie by former New Jersey State Assemblyman Louis Manzo, left, credibly 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. After winning by a large margin in November Christie also began in January a term as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Polling and pundits listed him then 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 Bridge.

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. Christie has denied wrongdoing. His team has suggested that former appointees Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein are primarily responsible.

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, most 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 January 2002 until the end of the Bush administration nearly seven years later.

Our research drew from the experiences of Manzo and his 44 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.

Authorities in both parties showed an unseemly desire to convict Manzo, his co-defendants and thus vindicate Christie and their other brethren in the tight-knit, 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 closely tracks the approach in Manzo's book, which had 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 moved up to next week after publication originally scheduled June 1. lists the paperback, 396-page 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."

Christie's Rise To Power

Chris Christie ShankboneThe fearless prosecutor fighting against special interests on behalf of the little guy is one of our nation's favorite civic heroes. But actual examples (except in the movies) are rarer than the public deserves.

As one reason, a prosecutor has relatively few resources to confront a huge array of potential crimes. So, they must compromise in decidedly unheroic fashion, whether in choice of targets or in investigative tactics.

Even more troubling is this central -- but largely unstated -- problem (except in a few places, such as this site):

If special interests have so much power why would they tolerate the appointment of investigators who are independent and courageous? Wouldn't it be easier for insiders if civic heroes only seem to have sterling qualities?

Shortcuts by Christie to achieve power are becoming more clear thanks to the work Manzo and Lizza. Their recent portraits build also on many daily newspaper articles and broadcast commentaries in recent months, especially about the bridge scandal. Christie is shown at right in a 2011 photo via Creative Commons.

The bridge scandal triggered public awareness of longstanding Christie methods, in part thanks to the tenacious work of State Senator Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, age 79, of Teaneck. She was one of the few unwavering Christie opponents during several years when most of her Democratic colleagues courted his favor. 

More damage to Christie's presidential aspirations is likely to come at year-end from Christie's Republican rivals, most notably those helping former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Their strategic interest is to help Christie stay politically viable in the short term for their own reasons, and then make sure Christie's support implodes when their man is ready to announce candidacy.

Looking Back

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, functioned as a moderate Republican compared to his peers across the nation in 94 Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney posts during first years of the administration.John Ashcroft

But the Rove, a senior White House advisor, put 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 such 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 seeking an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution was required to pay up to $50 million in a no-bid contract to the Washington, DC-based consultancy of former Bush administration U.S. Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft, left.

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, some small time, elderly politicians sentenced to prison. All but one were 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 who had contacts among 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 favorable treatment on his sentence as well as living expenses averaging $12,000 monthly tax-free, along with use of a new Lexis and $400,000 to offer political candidates in local races in Democratic districts who might say something while accepting donations that could be construed as crime.

Dwek's best political contacts were in Republican suburban areas. But Dwek (shown at right in his mug shot) and his law enforcement handlers focused their efforts on Democratic office holders and candidates. Dwek then went to working offering campaign donations and other funds in a corruption manner that could win convictions if targets took the bait.

With Dwek in harness gathering evidence, Christie resigned as U.S. attorney in December 2008 just before the end of President Bush's second term.

Solomon DwekChristie's successor under the Obama administration was Interim U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, whom Christie had groomed for leadership. Marra and his team continued the corruption probe into the new year in 2009 while Christie prepared a gubernatorial campaign against incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine.

Marra and his staff were ostensibly non-political. Also, they operated under the authority of the incoming Democratic president, who had many distractions as Republicans thwarted a number of his appointments.

Corzine was vulnerable on several issues during the election.

Then the New Jersey federal authorities timed their Bid Rig III arrests for maximum damage against Corzine and other Democrats during the summer of 2009 as the governor's race heated up.

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. Manzo also said he never even took any money before losing his primary in June 2009.

That fall, Christie won the governor's race, and hired for state jobs a dozen of his former federal prosecution office staffers, including Marra.

As typically the case in the federal justice system, the vast bulk of Bid Rig defendants pleaded guilty. This helped Christie solidify his reputation as a tough prosecutor.

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. Sherman and Margolin were reporters for the Newark-based Star-Ledger, the state’s largest-circulation newspaper.

Authorities gave the reporters exclusive access to certain documents, which 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. Authors were longtime New Jersey journalists Bob Ingle and Michael Symons.

Both books have been described by readers on 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.

Additionally, political reporters in my experience are adept at such skills as reporting quotations from candidates. But the reporters these days face so many deadlines, so much travel and so much institutional pressure that they find it difficult to challenge their government news subjects on the facts underlying the rhetoric.

Fighting Back

Louis Manzo, a resident of Belmar south of Staten Island, is a former town-level health director with a passion for the environment. In 2003, he published a novel, God’s Earth Also Cries, about pollution dangers for New Jersey residents.

Indicted and disgraced in 2009, Manzo fought back, as did several other defendants who won rare acquittals against over-reach by prosecutors. Manzo did so even though his brother was indicted also and pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Manzo told me years ago he would never agree to a plea deal, no matter how much pressure. 

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.

In 2010, for example, he eloquently and valiantly opposed President Obama's nominee Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination on human rights grounds in an essay for the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project. The former Harvard Law School dean, shown at left, was at the time Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Manzo argued that justice encompassed more than sympathy for historically disfavored groups, and required at times resistance to Executive Branch abuses.

Elena KaganManzo was a lifelong Democrat, like Kagan. Also, he was ensnared himself in the criminal justice justice system and had far more to lose than the typical pundit by opposing a nominee virtually certain to be approved and with many influential friends in the justice system. 

Manzo, driven by his determination, went on to win repeated court victories, to which authorities responded with two additional indictments. Finally, a federal appeals court ruled that he had been charged under a federal law that was intended only for officials, not candidates. He is now free, vindicated, and nearly broke from legal bills.

The news media have typically described Manzo simply as a former politician and criminal suspect. These days, they note that he won his cases and recently authored a book published by Trine Day, a small press run by Kris Millegan, son of a career CIA officer. In a 2012 lecture before the Sarah McClendon Group speaker society at the National Press Club, Millegan said his selection of titles has been inspired in part by his late father's family advice that the public needs to know more about the inner workings of law enforcement and the intelligence sectors. snidely introduced Manzo and his book this week by reporting that Manzo "beat the rap" for bribery -- as if all suspects are guilty. was founded and run by David Wildstein and Bridget KellyDavid Wildstein, who went on to become a Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and thus at the heart of the bridge scandal.

In 2007, Wildstein (shown at right in a file photo with Bridget Anne Kelly) sold the news site to wealthy New Jersey developer Jared Krushner, a young media mogul who is married to Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump.

Like Ashcroft with his no-bid consultancy worth up to $50 million courtesy of Christie, these are movers and shakers. They are not likely to be swept up in a dragnet whereby a Solomon Dwek offers a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions to a local politician.

That kind of justice is meted out to small fry like Manzo. A funny thing happened, however, on the way to prison. He turned the tables.

Some experts have said for years that Christie's real goal is to become U.S. Attorney General under the next GOP president, a position where he doesn't have to confront voters or his past once he gets past confirmation -- and can then benefit from the perks of power, just like John Ashcroft.

Read Ruthless Ambition. If so you may decide we need a different model for a fighting prosecutor -- with candidates drawn from the ranks of those fighting for justice, not jailings.


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Related News Coverage

Chris Christie and Barack Obama via WikimediaChristie is shown at light 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.

Updates, Letter: Book review criticism is misinformed, Andrew Kreig, April 17, 2014. The Star-Ledger's review of Ruthless Ambition is superficial and misinformed. For this important new book by former Jersey City Mayoral candidate Louis Manzo about Gov. Christie, Reviewer Josh McMahon evaluated Christie and the justice system through pro-prosecution, rose-colored glasses. The reviewer's suggestion that serious injustices cannot occur without revelation contradicts my decades of experience as a reporter, attorney and author, including four years of intensive research into the prosecution of Manzo, other Bid Rig III defendants in New Jersey, and similar cases nationwide. My non-partisan Justice Integrity Project, like many other researchers, has identified many abusive practices in the nation’s courts sustained by both political parties and prosecutors. / Jersey Journal, Letter: I need to set record straight about Christie spokesman's criticism of book, Louis Manzo, April 18, 2014. While I expected a lot of hell to be raised over the contents of my newly released book, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie, I must respond when a government official spins an outright lie to cover for the book's listing of misdeeds by his boss. In an article concerning my book, Gov. Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak -- the very same U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman for Bid Rig III -- said the following: "He [meaning me] was the beneficiary of a change in federal law, and he was never declared or found "innocent.'." Sounds pretty convincing at first blush, doesn't it? This is the perfect example of how Christie's people try to play the people and the press. Has Drewniak forgotten that the Constitution declares a defendant innocent until proven guilty? This Bridgegate grand jury witness, Drewniak, told a lie -- there was no "change in federal law." The government attempted to improperly apply the law in a way that had never been done in any federal district court, against their own guidelines warning them not to do so.

Justice Integrity Project Coverage

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 Book About Chris Christie

Jersey Journal, Former Jersey City assemblyman slams Christie, 2009 'Bid Rig' sting in new book, Terrence T. McDonald, April 15, 2014. There’s a sizable amount of glee running through Ruthless Ambition: the Rise and Fall of Chris Christie, former Jersey City Assemblyman Lou Manzo’s new book about New Jersey’s 55th governor. Manzo, a Democrat, hated Christie long before it became fashionable for Democrats. As one of the dozens of individuals arrested on July 23, 2009 in the biggest political corruption stings the state has ever seen, Manzo, 59, calls himself a victim of the governor’s political ambitions. “It was all about elections,” Manzo said of the massive corruption sweep. Ruthless Ambition, released last Monday, digs into the most recent accusations against Christie - – that he engineered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and withheld Hurricane Sandy relief funds to punish Democrats who wouldn’t endorse him, charges Christie has vehemently denied. But the 324-page book’s raison d'etre is the sweep that ensnared Manzo, his brother and dozens of elected officials and political operatives from Hudson County and beyond. The charges against Manzo were ultimately tossed by a federal judge. If the book’s subtitle and the silhouette on its cover don’t spell it out for you, the villain of the book is Christie, the former U.S. Attorney who spearheaded Operation Bid Rig III and whose poll numbers benefited from the high-profile arrests that came as he was seeking to unseat former Gov. Jon Corzine. Manzo said the controversies surrounding Christie now were foreshadowed during the Big Rig investigation and aftermath. “It's the same behavior: him using his political office, his governmental office, to benefit his political career,” Manzo said. Manzo was running for Jersey City mayor when he met with Solomon Dwek, the confidential informant who bribed public officials with envelopes filled with cash. The feds said Manzo’s brother, Ron, agreed that the Manzo campaign would accept nearly $30,000 in cash payments from Dwek in exchange for expedited approvals of Dwek’s purported real-estate deals. Federal Judge Jose Linares, who presided over many of the Bid Rig trials, tossed the most serious charge against Manzo in May 2010, saying a federal anti-extortion statute did not apply to him because he was merely a candidate for public office, not yet a public official. In February 2012, Linares dismissed the remainder of the charges. Manzo now lives in Belmar with his brother, Ron, who avoided a prison sentence after agreeing to testify against former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell. Ron Manzo admitted passing a $10,000 bribe from Dwek to Elwell. Manzo’s critics note that he wasn’t exactly declared innocent. In Linares’s ruling, Lineras called Manzo’s conduct as alleged in the indictment “morally reprehensible.” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, who was the U.S. Attorney’s spokesman at the time of the Bid Rig arrests, called Manzo “not credible.” “He was the beneficiary of a change in federal law, and he was never declared or found ‘innocent,’” Drewniak said. “That’s a big difference, a huge distinction, just as Judge Linares noted in his decision.” In the book, Manzo raps U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who succeeded Christie during the Bid Rig investigation, for not putting a halt to the sting before arrests were made. Fishman’s spokeswoman, Rebekah Carmichael, said he hasn’t seen the book. “Nonetheless, its supposed assertion that U.S. Attorney Fishman makes prosecutorial decisions based on factors other than the strength of the evidence and the interests of justi ce are absurd,” Carmichael said. Asked to respond, Manzo said his critics are missing the “32 pages of chapter notes and bibliography material” in his book that are “chock full” of federal court documents that he believes exculpate him. “They are not arguing against me, they are arguing against the history that they created,” he said., 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, was a topic of discussion on today's episode. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza joined Brian Lehrer to discuss his recent story on New Jersey governor, "Crossing Christie" during a 20-plus minute interview on Lehrer's show. 

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. Jersey Journal via, 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. Manzo's book chronicles Christie's political career as well as his involvement in the Bid Rig III sting operation.
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."

New Jersey's Bridge Closing Scandal

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.

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 StoneStone 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."

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.

Older Christie Profiles

New York Daily News, Passaic Valley Sewerage still stinks four years after Gov. Christie's intervention, Larry Mcshane, April 19, 2014. Four years ago, a furious Gov. Chris Christie booted six of its seven commissioners and its $313,000-a-year boss. Four officials left in handcuffs, and more than 100 employees were flat-out fired. But once the smoke cleared and the headlines disappeared, more than a whiff of impropriety lingered at the nation’s fifth-largest wastewater plant. Gov. Chris Christie is under fire over the replacements hired at Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission's plants after much of the leadership was fired. Julio Cortez/ASSOCIATED PRESS Gov. Chris Christie is under fire over the replacements hired at Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission's plants after much of the leadership was fired. Four years ago, Gov. Chris Christie condemned the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission as the epicenter of Jersey’s political piggishness and cronyism. The furious governor quickly booted six of its seven commissioners and its $313,000-a-year boss. Four officials left in handcuffs, and more than 100 employees were flat-out fired. Once the smoke cleared and the headlines disappeared, more than a whiff of impropriety lingered at the nation’s fifth-largest wastewater plant. Yet certain employees were inexplicably spared — including the son of a former agency commissioner and a GOP activist once disciplined for mixing business with politics, according to interviews and PVSC documents. “Same circus, different clowns,” groused one three-decade PVSC veteran, charging that honest workers became collateral damage once Christie took aim.

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."

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."

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.

Huffington Post, Wolff & Samson, Firm At Heart Of Christie Controversy, Has Had An Ally In The Governor, Andrew Perez and Christina Wilkie, Jan. 30, 2014. When the New Jersey-based industrial giant Honeywell Industries threatened to move its headquarters in 2010 unless the state doled out millions of dollars in tax incentives, the company did what many of New Jersey's biggest corporate players do -- it hired the law and lobbying firm Wolff & Samson to press its case. Honeywell paid Wolff & Samson $80,000 in lobbying fees in 2010 to lobby agencies like the Economic Development Authority. It paid off.

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

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, 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.

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.

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 /, 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.