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Monday, October 24, 2016

If after last week’s Bridgegate indictments you thought Chris Christie was finally done as the focus of government investigations, think again. The Republican governor’s administration in New Jersey is facing a whole new inquiry — this one involving hundreds of millions of dollars, and not just blocked-off bridge lanes.

At issue are the fees being paid by New Jersey’s beleaguered public pension system to Wall Street firms. In recent years, Christie’s officials have shifted more of the retirement savings of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public workers into the hands of private financial firms. That has substantially increased the management fees paid by taxpayers to those firms. Indeed, while Christie says the pension system cannot afford to maintain current retirement benefits, pension fees paid to financial firms have quadrupled to $600 million a year — or $1.5 billion in total since he took office in 2010.

In recent months, details have emerged showing that Christie officials have directed lucrative pension management deals to some financial companies whose executives have made contributions to Republican groups backing Christie’s election campaigns. Additionally, Christie’s officials have admitted that they have not been fully disclosing all the fees the state has been paying to private financial firms.

Not surprisingly, this has made the trustees who oversee the state’s retirement system more than a little bit nervous — especially since the ever-higher fees have coincided with below-median returns for the state’s pension fund. So the trustees began asking questions, and when they didn’t get the answers they were looking for, they announced in April that they are launching a formal investigation of the matter.

Wayne Hall, the chairman of one of the state’s pension funds, told the Newark Star-Ledger that the new investigation is designed to help retirees understand why the state is paying so much.

“I’m a layman. I’m not on Wall Street. I’m not an investor, and I have 33,000 people that I answer to and they’re not investors either,” he told the newspaper. “Why are we paying that kind of money? When I see the exorbitant fees the state has been paying for the last couple of years, I have to question that.”

In their quest for better disclosure, Hall and his colleagues received a boost from an unlikely source: conservative activists. When it comes to pensions, those activists are often calling for benefit cuts, but when it comes to transparency, they are standing on the same side as the retirees.

“Both government workers and taxpayers deserve to know why such an incredible sum is being expended every year with the current system in deep crisis,” said Erica Klemens of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “These are dollars that could be funding the system and preventing the state’s pension hole from growing even deeper. The decision by the trustees to look into this matter is the right thing to do.”

You might assume that the conservative support was designed to set the stage for New Jersey’s Republican governor to cooperate with the investigation’s push for transparency. But no — quite the opposite.

Only days after prosecutors indicted his appointees in the Bridgegate affair, Christie vetoed a bipartisan anti-corruption bill designed to insulate the state’s pension system from undue political influence. One of that bill’s provisions would have forced the state to better disclose the fees being paid to politically connected Wall Street firms.

That leaves the trustees to try get to the bottom of what’s really happening at the state’s $80 billion pension fund. They may not have the governor’s bully pulpit, but thousands of retirees are relying on them to bring the truth out from the shadows.

David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books Hostile Takeover, The Uprising, and Back to Our Future. Email him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at C

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

  • Paul Bass

    Christie, using Enron accounting to bring his state into the 20th century…

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      Yes, and with the same devastating effects: The rich pay less in taxes than the poor and middle class, which Christie flushes more of our tax revenues to his capitalistic cronies…Did Ernst & Young, one of the Big 5 CPA/Fund Management Firms in the US really need that tax subsidy or was that a gift from Christie’s brother Todd, an E&Y employee?

      • Paul Bass

        Eleanore, I agree! Although with most of these issues we are singing on the same choir.

        • Eleanore Whitaker

          I think the thing I dislike most about Chris Christie is his attitude that since he’s a Loiyah, he is smarter than the rest of the world.

          • jam

            That smugness is usually what leads to the downfall of the ‘Loiyah’ A$$HATS like Christie.

  • CrankyToo

    What’s that you say? The governor of New Jersey is a lying, thieving, corrupt dirtbag and a Wall Street whore? Surprise!!!

    In my fondest dream, the law finally catches up with that loudmouth POS, and they throw his chubby a$$ underneath the jail.

    BTW, we’re about to discover that his isn’t the only statehouse funneling millions in pension fund management fees to the avaricious leeches on Wall Street. Stay tuned because the cockroaches are really going to be scurrying now that someone’s switched on the light. I predict that this is going to blossom into a scandal of some magnitude and that a number of (predominantly Repugnican) heads are going to roll.

    • Independent1

      Well, let’s certainly hope so because Republican governors and legislatures are running one state after another into the ground across America in their efforts to continue siphoning monies from the middleclass and poor into the pockets of the already wealthy.

      And the sad part is, that in order to do this, Republican politicians keep reducing budgets that support virtually every safety-net program that protects people and provides them with the ability to live productive, happy and safe lives. Citizens of Red states are increasingly paying the price for this by living in the states that have by far the highest – violence, homicide, auto accident and even infant mortality rates in the nation; which has resulted in red state residents living significantly shorter lives on average than residents of blue states. It’s the much higher than average mortality rates in red states, that makes America compare so poorly on life expectancy to other nations on the planet.

      And that even goes to the poor showing of America with respect to America’s medical system – where hospital outcomes compare so poorly to other countries. The primary reason for this is once again Republicans doing everything to cut budgets, refuse to expand Medicaid, refusing to adequately fund the healthcare systems in their states. Red States by far are found to provide poor healthcare systems resulting in thousands of people dying prematurely every year that could have lived longer had the healthcare system in their state been better. Texas has led the nation for the past 2 years in attaining the designation of having the worst healthcare delivery system in America.

  • FT66

    Doesn’t Chris Christie have friends to tell him to give all up and call it a day. His political career is totally doomed. I also would like to go to the moon. Do I have all qualities to go there? The answer is: A BIG NO.

  • jmprint

    I still want to know why he settled the Exxon Lawsuit for so little.

    • Independent1

      Here’s three possible reasons – one of them of course being payback for large donations to the GOP Governors Association and about $279,000 directly to Christie’s election and reelection. And then there’s the fact that Christie’s 1st attorney general worked for Exxon. And then there’s some legislation that allows Christie to divert monies from what was intended for environmental litigation into the general fund.

      For more on that, see this article from

      Why Did Gov. Chris Christie Settle New Jersey’s Pollution Lawsuit Against Exxon Mobil?

      • Insinnergy

        Nice summary.

  • Joan

    Pay to play politics as usual in NJ. Christie’s higher aspirations were always going to be domed by his arrogance and lack of impulse control. Nobody really wants a bully for
    President. His running is not serious, it is a way for him to divert campaign funds into his own private, off shore accounts and boost his later rates for speaking appearances.
    I wish I saw jail in his future, but he will throw some other underling under the bus.

  • plc97477

    Can anyone tell me why the state of new jersey voted for this idiot?

    • fortunev

      Idiots vote for an idiot.

  • Jasmine An’deez

    At this point it seems clear that Obama’s personal jihad against Western civilization is destined to fail.