Christie's crony capitalism

If you are looking for evidence that Republicans are more devoted to the the interests of the one percent than to the masses of the American people, you need look no farther than New Jersey, which has the happiness of being governed by Republican Chris Christie, who openly and unashamedly uses the office of governor to feather the nests of his über rich supporters at the expense of the very people of the garden state who elected him.

Not too long ago, the New York Times ran a series of articles on the condition of the state's privately run halfway houses-- the places prisoners go to get more rehabilitative help on their way back into society. If these privately run halfway houses are incompetently or corruptly managed there are at least three big problems for the people of New Jersey. First, the prisoners are not getting the rehabilitative help they need to function in society. Second, the citizens are exposed to potential criminal victimization due to the malfunctioning of the halfway houses. Third, the tax money paid out to the privatized firms running the halfway houses is being wasted.

The government of New Jersey cannot be indifferent to this situation. The State Senate and the Assembly went into action after the New York Times published reports such as the following: "The Bo Robinson center in New Jersey is as large as a prison and is intended to help inmates re-enter society. But The New York Times found that drugs, gangs, and sexual abuse are rife behind its walls."

And the Bo Robinson center was only one of the halfway houses exposed by the Times in a three part series published in June. The series revealed the whole system is shot through with crime and corruption and is being used as a cash cow by the private companies that are running it.

What sane politician would not want to end this abuse? The Legislature, controlled by Democrats (but not by enough to override a veto) had to put up with Gov. Christie's veto back in June when they tried to make the halfway house industry more accountable. The Legislature wanted to receive quarterly reports on what was going on and also be informed what actions the industry was taking to protect the inmates from violence, drugs, and other forms of abuse.

The Times reported on Christie's response: "In a message to the Legislature, the governor said he issued the vetoes because the reporting requirements were burdensome and threatened the security of the facilities." That is the GOP mantra, by the way, that all regulations and supervision of private interests are "burdensome."

But the story doesn't end there. On August 8, the Times reported that Christie has taken further action to water down any government oversight or regulation of the halfway house industry. The Legislature had also arranged to have the contracts with the private operators reviewed and audited. Just how is the state's money being used? Christie objects and says he won't sign this new law unless "all existing contracts, including those with halfway house operators, were exempted from the audits." What legitimate business needs to be protected from an audit?

Christie's position is that current contracts should not be audited, according to the Times, "because his administration already properly supervised them." Oh? Then why did the Times report on a system full of violence, drug use, and sexual assault if the contracts were properly supervised?

As deep throat said, "Follow the money." It turns out that the state's largest private halfway house contractor is Community Education Centers (they run the aforementioned Bo Robinson center) whose senior vice president, William Palatucci, is both a trusted political advisor to the governor and his former law partner. Not only that, but Christie was a paid lobbyist for Community Education Centers before he was governor. Crony capitalism is alive and well in New Jersey. What would the whole country look like if run by these supporters of the one percent?

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