Christie's Campaign Team Was In Close Contact With Pension Board
Credit: Gage Skidmore
August 15, 2014

I'd hate to see this get lost in all the other stories this week, because this is actually a big deal -- particularly when Christie keeps pushing pension "reform." Can he be trusted to do what's best for New Jersey -- or is he more concerned about his donors? David Sirota at the International Business Times:

The head of a New Jersey board that determines how the state invests its pension money was in direct contact with top political and campaign fundraising aides for Gov. Chris Christie as the governor last fall mounted a successful bid for a second term.

The meetings between Christie's political team and the state's pension overseer challenge assurances from the governor that the investment of state pension funds has been fully insulated from the political process. The meetings occurred as Christie's campaign benefited from contributions from executives at financial firms that have secured lucrative contracts to manage growing slices of New Jersey pension money.

State and federal laws severely restrict campaign donations from companies that manage state pension money. These so-called pay-to-play rules are aimed at preventing pension funds from being invested according to political dictates rather than in pursuit of the greatest return. A former federal prosecutor cognizant of such laws, Christie has maintained that New Jersey's pension funds have been effectively walled off from political influence.

"Nobody but the state investment council makes decisions on how pension funds are invested," Christie declared during a May radio interview. "I've never once made a phone call to Bob Grady, the chairman of the investment council, or any of the commissioners or any of the employees to tell them how to invest."

But a series of calendar invites sent electronically by Elise Dietsch, a top fundraising official for Christie's campaign, to several of his senior campaign aides and officials in his administration described a "weekly call" whose "required attendees" included Robert Grady.

The International Business Times found the calendar invites amid a 290-page trove of documents released in June by the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, which is probing last year's controversial partial shutdown of the George Washington Bridge. (Click here to view the calendar invites.)

The governor's chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, was also on the list of meeting attendees, along with deputy chief of staff Maria Comella, the governor's counsel Charlie McKenna, Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien, campaign consultant Mike DuHaime and campaign chairman Bill Palatucci, whom the National Review described as "an aggressive fundraiser on Christie’s behalf."

The revelation that Grady was in frequent communication with Christie's campaign operation calls into question the governor's assertions that his administration's management of the state's $80 billion in pension funds has been insulated from the realm of vote-seeking and fundraising. It raises the prospect of action from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is tasked with enforcing pay-to-play laws.

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