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JON CORZINE Printer Friendly Page
Life and Death in New Jersey
By Jeff Jacoby
December 20, 2007

State of Corruption
By Eric Pfeiffer
August 12, 2005
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  • Former Democratic governor of New Jersey
  • Formerly one of the most leftwing members of the U.S. Senate
  • His political life has been plagued by ethics scandals.

Jon Corzine, 58, served as the Democratic governor of New Jersey from 2006 to 2010. A former CEO of the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs, Corzine successfully ran for the New Jersey Senate seat in 2000. Drawing heavily on his campaign war chest, Corzine spent $63 million in the course of the campaign, including $35 million in the primary election alone.

During his years in the Senate, Corzine, in the estimation of the New York Times, “established a reputation as one of the Senate's most liberal members.” A former contributor to the leftwing website the Huffington Post and a self-styled “progressive,” Corzine has defended unsustainable Social Security benefits and opposed tax cuts intended to spur economic growth. He also opposed the Iraq War and has become an outspoken critic of the prewar intelligence estimates. But Corzine himself has been far from consistent on the subject.

In April of 2003, for instance, Corzine said that he strongly believed Iraq possessed illicit weapons capabilities. “It’s pretty clear they had chemical and biological weapons until the inspectors left in 1998. Given the nature of the regime, I can’t imagine they would just destroy it,” he said at the time. Corzine is one of a handful of partisan Democrats who have called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

In his farewell speech from the Senate floor, after winning the New Jersey governor’s race in November of 2005, Corzine lamented that he had been unable to increase the minimum wage and introduce legislation banning racial profiling by law-enforcement authorities. Corzine also acknowledged his failures as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2004 elections, noting that the party lost four Senate seats during his tenure.

Though he prevailed in New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections, ethics questions shadowed Corzine’s campaign.  Among the more damaging revelations was that Corzine had forgiven a $470,000 loan to his erstwhile girlfriend, Carla Katz, who also happened to be the head of the state’s largest employee union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Not only did Corzine omit all mention of the loan on his Senate expense reports, but just six months after issuing the loan to Katz, the CWA endorsed his 2000 Senate campaign. Corzine’s scrupulousness was again called into question when news broke that, just over a month after announcing his candidacy for governor, Corzine had invested $7 million in Ichan Partners LP, a privately held hedge fund managed by New Jersey casino operator Carl Ichan. The investment was in direct violation of New Jersey's Conflicts of Interest Law, which prohibits governors from holding financial interests that pose a “reasonable risk of the public perception of a conflict of interest” with gambling companies. Corzine reportedly made $100,000 from his investment. Pressed about his controversial involvement with Ichan, Corzine refused to answer questions about his financial partners.

Corzine’s questionable financial dealings did not end there. After announcing his decision to seek a U.S. Senate seat, Corzine had promised to place his assets into a blind trust so as to avoid potential conflicts of interest. But in 2005, only $86 million of his $262 million holdings was in a blind trust. The Record newspaper of Hackensack, NJ, also reported in 2005 that Corzine, as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, had voted for a 2004 tax treaty with Japan that earned him a large tax break. Corzine insisted that he had derived no economic benefit from the treaty, but Corzine’s critics disputed that defense, noting that Corzine’s reluctance to disclose his assets made it impossible to come to a clear judgment about the ethicality of his role in the treaty’s enactment. Upon winning the election, Corzine conceded that he faced a sizeable credibility gap on ethics issues. “We have to make it a reality that we are committed to the public trust,” Corzine said. “. . . The public trust needs to be restored, and I have every intention of making sure that occurs. And as I said on election night, I want to be held accountable.”


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