NJ-GOV: Arrests Could Spell Doom for Corzine

What worse for a struggling incumbent governor than trailing by 15 points in the polls?  Scores of Democratic Party officials – including a member of your administration – arrested and implicated in a widespread official corruption scheme in an investigation begun by your challenger.

A two-year corruption and international money-laundering investigation stretching from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn to Israel and Switzerland culminated in charges against 44 people on Thursday, including three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis, the authorities said. […]

Weysan Dun, the special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Newark office…emphasized that the case was motivated by neither religion nor politics — an important point given that the New Jersey governor’s race pits a former United States attorney, Christopher J. Christie, under whom the investigation began, against the Democratic incumbent, Jon S. Corzine, whose administration was not spared in the arrests Thursday.

Agents also raided the home of Joseph V. Doria Jr., commissioner of the state’s Department of Community Affairs and a former mayor of Bayonne.

Corzine called a hasty press conference to denounce the corruption.  “Any corruption is unacceptable — anywhere, anytime, by anybody,” he said.  But if Corzine was hoping to insulate himself from and fallout from the arrests, it may already be too late.

Most of the arrested are Democrats, although there are two Republicans, and it’s a good bet that the non-politician defendants are well-connected in Democratic Party circles.  As governor, Corzine is the head of the New Jersey Democratic Party and will naturally be suspected of having had some knowledge of or contact with the defendants’ scheming.  New Jersey voters are long past giving any politician the benefit of the doubt.

The arrests also take away Corzine’s main avenue of attack against Christie, the weak charge that Christie himself is ethically challenged.  When voters see Corzine’s commercials alleging corruption against Chrsitie, the corruption-fighting former U.S. Attorney who made his name putting Democratic politicians in jail, they won’t have to look very far to find a real corruption scandal that touches very close to Corzine.

By contrast, the arrests fit right in to a major campaign theme of Christie’s.  Christie has been playing up his corruption fighter image on the campaign trail, picking nationally regarded Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno as his running-mate.  The events of today will only help Christie make his case that the time has come to sweep the powers that be out of Trenton.