Media outlets are questioning whether recent articles by the New York Times exposing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s involvement in the state’s festering halfway house program will diminish his already unlikely chance to become Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running-mate.
Christie is long-standing friends with William J. Palatucci the vice president of the company in charge of the half-way houses, Community Education Centers. As lobbyists, Christie and Palatucci worked for the company in the 1990s.
New Jersey’s halfway house system has beds for roughly 3,500 inmates. The houses are not as strictly regulated as federal prisons and are meant to serve as rehabilitation centers for minor criminal offenders. They have become plagued by violence, sexual and otherwise; drug trafficking, gangs and escapes. The houses have become “dumping grounds” for all kinds of inmates, the New York Times reports.
Christie, a Republican, has often visited and praised the facilites owned by Community Education Centers. Community Education Centers also has ties to well-known Democrats.
Christie and Palatucci have a long history. In the early 1990s the two were registered lobbyists and their clients included Community Education Centers. In 1998 the duo launched a lobbying division within the Dughi & Hewit P.C. law firm. Together, they made $1.25 million for the firm in the four years Christie worked there.
In the the late 1990s Palatucci began ferrying New Jersey Republicans to meet Texas’s then-Gov. George W. Bush, the Washington Post reports. Christie became a fundraiser for Bush’s presidential campaign in New Jersey and eventually befriended Bush, who nicknamed Christie “Big Boy.”
After Bush became President, Republican strategist Karl Rove forwarded Christie’s resume to the president, who then him nominated for New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney spot. Christie said the position, which he held from 2002 to 2008, was his “best job.”
In 2009 former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said he “regretted” supporting Christie’s bid for U.S. Attorney. Corzine said in an an interview with the New York Times that Christie politicized the role and used it as a launching pad for his run for the governorship, in which he defeated Corzine in 2009. Christie won the election, collecting 48.5 percent of the vote compared to Corzine’s 44.9 percent. He assumed office in January 2010.
Christie’s nebulous history with Palatucci has the potential to derail any of his hopes about becoming Romney’s vice presidential candidate. Romney, in fact, already has his own qualms with Christie, according to several Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Christie was late to a $5 million fund-raising dinner in New York City last month. Romney was forced to be Christie’s warm-up act and no doubt grit his teeth as he ended up introducing Christie to the crowd after the governor’s tardy arrival.
Earlier this week, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell crossed Christie off the short list of potential Republican vice presidential candidates.
“One of the biggest profiteers [of the for-profit system of halfway-house systems in New Jersey] is William Pallatucci, he is Chris Christie’s close friend and campaign fundraiser,” O’Donnell reports. ”This episode… is enough to destroy Christie’s chances of being selected for the Republican Vice Presidential nomination, if he ever had a chance.”
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