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“The Broader GOP Benefits Of Walker Losing”: Intra-Party ‘Feud’ Complicates Walker’s Race In Wisconsin

No gubernatorial race in the country is as competitive as Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) re-election bid in Wisconsin. The last four publicly released polls have shown the race either tied or within one percentage point.

And with just a week until Election Day, the incumbent governor isn’t convinced the Republican Machine is rallying to his defense to the degree he’d prefer.

At a morning campaign stop in Mayville, Wisconsin, Walker openly groused that the outside spending supporting his campaign “pales” in comparison to the Democratic effort to defeat him. He spoke dismissively of an upcoming campaign visit from [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie], telling reporters that the Garden Stater was visiting because “he asked if he could come and we weren’t going to say no.”

Ouch.

In fairness, Walker later clarified that he’s grateful for Christie’s support, but he’s frustrated because he believes Democrats are rallying behind Mary Burke’s campaign with even stronger support.

The result is an awkward “feud” of sorts – Walker desperately needs backing from the Republican Governors Association, which is chaired by Christie, but at the same time, Walker believes the RGA is holding back, in part because of 2016. And he may have a point – both Christie and Walker are preparing to run for president, and if the Wisconsin governor comes up short, Christie will have one less credible rival for the GOP nomination.

It’s created a dynamic in which Christie’s RGA wants Walker to win, but it also sees the broader benefits of Walker losing.

And that in turn has generated chatter about whether the New Jersey Republican is undermining his Wisconsin ally on purpose to advance Christie’s ambitions.

The Weekly Standard, which is clearly attuned to Republican insiders’ thinking, had an interesting report on this late last week.

Is New Jersey governor and Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie undercutting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s reelection effort? That’s a question a number of influential Wisconsin Republicans have been asking behind the scenes over the past week after an October 16 Associated Press report indicated that Walker and his allies were being outspent by Democratic challenger Mary Burke and her allies. […]

Why would the RGA spend more on Rick Snyder than Scott Walker? A number of top Wisconsin Republicans have expressed the same concern in separate conversations with THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That RGA chairman Chris Christie might be tanking Walker, a potential rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. As Republican governors who took on public employee unions in blue states, Christie and Walker would be chasing after some of the same donors and voters in the 2016 race (if both men decide to run). Knocking Walker out of the running now (while giving extra help to Rick Snyder, a governor of an important early GOP primary state) could be in Christie’s interest.

As for Democrats, President Obama will be in Wisconsin today, rallying support for Burke’s campaign, which “comes on the heels of high-profile events with Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 28, 2014

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Midterm Elections, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Like Sands Through The Hourglass”: Gov. Christie’s Wife Works At Firm Managing State Pension Funds

Last week, The Nation published my piece exploring how Gov. Chris Christie — a champion of so-called “pension reform” — has presided over a massive transfer of state retiree money into the hands of hedge funds and other high-fee investment managers, including to Wall Street titans who have boosted the governor’s political career with hefty donations to the Republican Governors Association.

As part the piece, we noted that this shift came as perhaps somewhat of a surprise to those who followed Christie’s first campaign for statewide office. In 2009, Christie and his surrogates bashed Democratic Governor Jon Corzine for the same practice of moving large amounts of pension money into so-called “alternative investment” managers. “Jon Corzine made it easier for his friends from Wall Street to manage New Jersey’s pension fund,” blasted a “Christie for Governor” press release. In fact, Christie suggested that Corzine’s personal investments with a fund that had won New Jersey pension contracts reeked of corruption — and demanded that he divest.

Well, it appears that Christie’s wife, Mary Pat Christie, also has a financial interest in a firm that invests money on behalf of New Jersey retirees. Mary Pat joined the alternative investment firm Angelo Gordon in 2012, where “she works full time on strategic planning and marketing, focusing on bank debt and distressed funds,” according to Bloomberg. Disclosures from the New Jersey Division of Investment, the agency that oversees the state pension, reveal that Angelo Gordon continues to manage money on behalf of the fund, though they have wound down some of the investments over the years. The particular fund is called “AG Garden Partners,” one of many investment vehicles owned by Angelo Gordon.

A request for comment from the Division of Investment and to Angelo Gordon has not been answered.

Now, the contact between the New Jersey pension plan and Angelo Gordon began in 2006, well before Christie became governor. But as the Christie campaign, including then-campaign surrogate Bill Baroni, charged, such potential conflicts of interest opens ”up the door to the perception of politics.”

Will Mary Pat Christie’s employment with Angelo Gordon influence continued investments from the New Jersey pension fund into her firm?

Another question this relationship raises is, how will the many hedge fund and private equity business deals at stake in 2014 influence Christie’s chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, the organization responsible for ensuring Republicans win gubernatorial races. In most states, governors have wide latitude in managing how state pension funds are run. Angelo Gordon manages pension money for the Nebraska and New Mexico state plans — two states where Republicans are hoping to retain power, and where Christie and the RGA are likely to play a role.

 

By: Lee Fang, Republic Report, March 24, 2014

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP’s ‘Damaged-Goods’ Primary”: Why Christie And Walker Are Staring Each Other Down

You’ve got to hand it to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: He’s enduring his current political troubles defiantly, even going on the offensive this weekend by tweaking New Jersey’s embattled Gov. Chris Christie over Bridgegate. Christie’s troubles are “just beginning,” Walker slyly told reporters at a Republican Governors Association event this weekend, while his own, he claims, are behind him. “A Democrat district attorney looked at it and he’s done. It’s done.” Christie, by contrast, has “ the legislature which is not on his side politically, and they’ll probably drag it out for some time.”

In other words: Scott Walker to big GOP establishment donors: “I’m your guy!”

Typically, though, Walker took his claims a little too far: While one investigation into campaign law violations is closed – after six Walker aides and associates were convicted – another is ongoing. And Walker made a big mistake when he tried to feed his “it’s old news” line about his troubles to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Wallace shot back: “Because of this dump of 25,000 documents, it’s new news to a lot of the people in the state and it’s been big news in local papers in Wisconsin.” (It was actually 27,000 documents, and they showed, among other things, that Walker’s aides set up a secret email system so campaign workers and Walker’s county employees could coordinate their work.)

Then Wallace set to grilling Walker about details, but it turns out Walker doesn’t do details:

WALLACE: In one email that was released this week, your then chief of staff Thomas Nardelli, let’s put this up on the screen, writes campaign and county workers that you wanted to hold daily conference calls, “to review events of the day or of a previous or future day so we can better coordinate sound timely responses,” and in another e-mail county administrative director Cynthia Archer suggests that colleagues should use a private e-mail account. “I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW,” that’s you, “and Nardelli, the former chief of staff.” Question: if county workers were doing nothing wrong, why should they be using a private e-mail account?

WALKER: Well, but that’s exactly to my point. You had a Democratic district attorney spend almost three years looking at every single one of those communications, interviewing people, talking to people and closed the case.

WALLACE: Did you have your own private e-mail account?

WALKER: It’s one of those where I point out district attorney has reviewed every single one of these issues.

WALLACE: But sir, you’re not answering my question.

WALKER: No, because I’m not going to get into 27,000 different pieces of information.

Maybe Walker can be forgiven for thinking his deflection would be accepted in the friendly confines of Fox, but his dodges were so artless they offended Wallace. Beltway pundits may have declared Walker’s troubles a “snooze,” but Chris Wallace wasn’t snoozing on Sunday.

Still, Walker had a better weekend than his 2016 rival Chris Christie. Although the New Jersey governor has ignored the suggestion that he step down as chair of the Republican Governors Association until his bridge troubles are resolved, he kept an unusually low profile as the nation’s governors gathered in Washington this weekend. He only appeared at a couple of official events, seeming “uncharacteristically quite and reserved,” according to Time magazine, and he ditched the media the whole weekend, as he has since his two-hour pity party/press conference over a month ago.

Christie didn’t attend either Sunday night’s White House dinner or Monday’s meeting with the president. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was slated to lead the Republican delegation visiting Obama as well as the closing press conference. Jindal’s own 2016 hopes have been dashed by his unpopularity in Louisiana, but maybe that’s a sign of Bobbymentum.

So far I’d have to say that Walker is surviving his scandal with more aplomb than Christie, but it’s not over. That other John Doe investigation, into whether Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside right-wing groups that flooded the state with money, continues. Reporters and Democratic operatives continue to delve into those 27,000 documents released last week. Walker is brazenly asserting that voters have no right to know more about his staff’s secret email system or other oddities in the new emails, including the racism of his top aides. He seems to think that “unindicted” is the same as “unscathed.” But most people have higher standards than that for their governor and their president.

When even Fox News doesn’t accept that Walker’s troubles are “old news,” that’s bad news for Scott Walker 2016.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, February 24, 2014

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stick A Fork In Chris Christie”: A Textbook Lesson In How Many Politicians’ Public Personas Often Conflict With Reality

If Chris Christie knew, his presidential ambitions are kaput.

There’s a reason why nearly everyone who came to Christie’s defense left a wide-open caveat—if he’s telling the truth. Friday’s allegation that Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures, coming from the lawyer for his Port Authority official, David Wildstein, suggests he was lying during his epic two-hour press conference by claiming no knowledge of the situation.

“Christie would have to be the world’s biggest fool to say what he said in the way he said it if he did have any responsibility,” former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told me after the governor’s press conference. “If there’s anything that contradicts what he said at the press conference, it would make it almost impossible for him to survive.”

One Democratic operative who was always skeptical of Christie’s outright denials pointed to other famous politicians caught in scandal who lied in order to forestall immediate consequences. Bill Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky, John Edwards lied about his affair and child with staffer Rielle Hunter, and Anthony Weiner misled reporters about his online sexting. All hoped to buy time, desperately wishing that the media would turn its scrutiny elsewhere.

If Wildstein’s allegations are accurate—he’s seeking immunity from prosecutors for his own role in the scandal—Christie’s cover-up will be even more brazen. A former U.S. attorney, Christie is fully aware of the legal jeopardy he put himself into with unequivocal denials of involvement, all for only a short-term public-relations gain. He fired two of his closest loyalists, even though they may have been acting on his orders—or at least with his consent—all along.

Christie’s approval ratings were already taking a nosedive even before Friday afternoon’s revelations hit. His personal favorability in both national and New Jersey polls dropped underwater, and increasing numbers of voters have expressed skepticism that Christie knew nothing about what was happening under him. His main selling point for any presidential campaign was electability—that he was popular with independents and some Democrats—and that is no longer operative, even if he can recover from this scandal.

Depending on where the evidence leads, there are a lot of other political implications for the New Jersey governor. Can Christie stay on as chairman of the Republican Governors Association under the cloud of scandal? Republicans, already facing a bruised brand, won’t want to have a scandal-plagued governor as the face of their party. It’s hard to see even the most enthusiastic prospective donors, like Home Depot cofounder Ken Langone, sticking on the bandwagon. And it’s hard to see how Christie will be able to accomplish much in his second term with investigations poised to continue indefinitely.

Christie’s downfall is a textbook lesson in how many politicians’ public personas often conflict with reality. Christie has assiduously developed an image as someone who was above politics to get things done, but in reality, he was a product of a New Jersey political system where trading favors for political support is ubiquitous.

As I wrote this month, Christie’s downfall stems from his hubris—the belief that he could win over many Democratic officials to a landslide reelection victory, and his confidence that he could use his impressive rhetorical skills to talk his way out of this mess. On both counts, he got what he wanted initially, only to see the house of cards collapse.

By: Josh Krausher, The National Journal, January 31, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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