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Governors Under the Gun

Governors Under the Gun

Govenor Chris Christie

This Article was written by Clint Broden, first published on Lawfuel.com

As of today, no fewer than five current governors are in legal hot water, along with another former governor and his wife.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) may be best known for his suspected role in the “Bridgegate” scandal, in which a massive traffic jam was created by the closure of lanes at the toll plaza to the George Washington Bridge. And even as that investigation continues, another one has begun.
As of today, no fewer than five current governors are in legal hot water, along with another former governor and his wife.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) may be best known for his suspected role in the “Bridgegate” scandal, in which a massive traffic jam was created by the closure of lanes at the toll plaza to the George Washington Bridge. And even as that investigation continues, another one has begun.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is examining whether Christie improperly diverted $1.8 billion in tax-exempt bond financing from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for use on transport projects in New Jersey.

Christie helped fellow-governor-in-hot-water Rick Scott (R) on the campaign trail in Florida this April. Earlier in the spring, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Scott’s administration violated federal law by purging noncitizens from the voter rolls too close to the 2012 presidential election. Scott is the former CEO of healthcare company Columbia/HCA, which was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.

In March 2010, Nathan Deal (R) resigned his position as one of Georgia’s U. S. Congressman in order to run for governor. Also in March 2010, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) released a report that accused Deal of numerous potential ethics violations by using his office to personally enrich himself. Deal won the governor’s race, and in 2011, Georgia’s ethics commission launched an investigation of Deal’s 2010 campaign reports and financial disclosures. Shortly afterward, one member of the ethics committee was fired and the salary of committee director Stacey Kalberman was cut. Kalberman sued, alleging retaliation for her office’s investigation, and in April was awarded $700,000 by a jury after two hours of deliberation.

Deal isn’t the only governor to face questions about campaign financing. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is also under investigation for potential illegal activity during his campaign for governor. Walker’s campaign is the subject of two John Doe probes (which function much like grand jury investigations). In the first, six people—three former Walker aides, an appointee and a major campaign contributor—were convicted of criminal charges. The first probe continues, lately ordering the release of emails and documents that could prove harmful to Walker.

The second probe, which is examining a wide variety of state issues, was launched after the fist one turned up additional potentially incriminating information.

Texas Governor Rick Perry is the latest current governor under the gun. In April, he hired a defense attorney to represent him as he faces possible criminal charges over vetoing funding for the state ethics office. Perry had asked Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign her post after she had been fined and served time for drunk driving last April. She refused, and Perry eliminated $7.3 million from Texas’ Public Integrity Unit. Perry said he made the decision because he could not “in good conscience support continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence.” The Texans for Public Justice, who filed the complaint, said Perry took the action in order to shut down a probe of “one of the governor’s signature corporate subsidy programs.”

Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2014 on 14 counts that included charges of fraud and soliciting loans and gifts. The indictment alleges that McDonnell and his wife accepted more than $140,000 in money and gifts from the maker of the dietary supplement Anatabloc, who hoped to use the governor’s influence to promote his product.

The gifts listed include $135,000 in cash, thousands of dollars in golf outings, designer clothing (including Oscar de la Renta dresses for McDonnell’s wife), iPhones, boxes of Anatabloc, and a Rolex watch engraved “71st Governor of Virginia.”