Salon's Josh Eidelson is breaking an original story, Chris Christie’s Texas horror: Meet the scandalous prison company he’s long promoted, about Governor Christie's lobbying for the controversial corporation that owns these immigration detention centers, criticized as being some of worst in the country. It turns out that the former senior vice-president of the Community Education Centers, Bill Palatucci, also served as chairmen of Christie's 2013 reelection campaign, and is co-chair of Christie's inaugural committee, and part of his innermost circle.
“I’ve visited a bunch of detention facilities in Texas, and that’s by far the worst,” said the opponent, Bob Libal, who directs the prison reform group Grassroots Leadership and visited the Polk County Adult Detention Center with other activists in 2012 and 2013. His allegations echo a 2012 report from the Detention Watch Network, a coalition including the ACLU and the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as Libal’s group: “Inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, lack of access to legal services, absence of meaningful programming, and a willful neglect of those who are imprisoned there plague the Polk detention center.”
CEC’s ties to Chris Christie and track record running halfway houses in New Jersey have drawn harsh scrutiny, including a series of stories in the New York Times. Reporter Sam Dolnick wrote in 2012 that Christie, who was a registered lobbyist for CEC in 2000 and 2001, “has long championed the company,” and the state had paid out tens of millions to CEC but “not closely examined” its “financial standing or operations, according to documents, former company executives and state officials.” Former employees told the Times “that the company had kept staffing levels very low” and thus “did a poor job delivering counseling and other services intended to help inmates make the transition to society.”
The Times also wrote that the Christie administration “took no action in response to the [state] comptroller’s warning,” following a critical audit of New Jersey halfway houses, “that regulators were kept in the dark about Community Education’s finances.” When legislators responded to a Times investigation by passing stronger halfway-house oversight rules, Christie narrowed them with a line-item veto, a move the Times noted drew accusations of “trying to protect Mr. Palatucci, the company executive who is his close friend.” The paper wrote that documents suggest CEC CEO John Clancy “highlighted Mr. Palatucci’s ties to Mr. Christie in an effort to impress investors and secure desperately needed financing for the company.” ...
While I'm not sure there is any illegality involved in this connection, it helps fill in the ugly picture of the world Governor Christie creates around himself. Also, this adds another relationship with Christie that appears to be sordid and creates an appearance of conflict of interest, and opportunism.
1:29 PM PT: Here's another story from this afternoon about Governor's Christie's rat's nest of dubious relationships that appear to have conflicts of interest. It is part of another post with five "low level" new stories today. I was waiting for another Mayor to come out with a blockbuster but, half the days over an nothing yet today.
In Christie ties reportedly led to big gains for Wolff & Samson we learn that Christie's long-time law firm co-partnered by Port Authority chairman David Sampson has experienced a tremendous boom in business during Christie's term:
According to state records obtained by the radio station, Wolff & Samson's lobbying business went from $40,000 annually prior to Christie's first election to over $1 million per year afterwards.
WNYC also reported that according to records, the firm's municipal bond counsel businesses has quadrupled since Christie took office, jumping from handling $2.4 billion worth of bond sales under Gov. Jon Corzine to $10.1 billion under Christie. ...
The firm was again linked to the scandal last week as Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy relief aid from her city if she did not give approval to a development project by the Rockefeller Group, which Wolff & Samson represents.
Mayor Zimmer also included Christie Lori Grifa as one who pressured her about the Rockefeller project. NJbiz also tells she is now an attorney for Wolff and Samson, previously she worked for the Rockefeller group.
2:11 PM PT: Another Blow for Chris Christie
Despite the tough talk and bluster from its governor, New Jersey lost over 36,000 jobs in December, the largest drop in over two decades. Even more devastating for the assumed presidential contender, is that only 7,000 private sector jobs were created in 2013. This is the latest knock for the governor, who has seen his status as a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican primary dissipate as a result of the George Washington Bridge scandal. The numbers also provide a stark contrast to the governor’s rhetoric, as last week he said in his state of the union address that, "We have endured the worst economic recession of our lifetimes, and we have begun to triumph over it." Maybe people just didn’t like the commute.