The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Office of the Special Counsel to investigate whether former United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Chris Christie violated the Hatch Act by discussing a run for Governor of New Jersey with then-White House political adviser Karl Rove while he was still the U.S. Attorney.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee released more than 700 pages of on-the-record interview transcripts of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers related to their roles in the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys and the Bush administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice.
During the course of his interview with the committee, Rove was asked about contacts he had with Chris Christie, the Republican candidate for governor of the state.
Specifically, Rove was asked whether he or anyone at in the Office of Political Affairs had any communications with Christie or his office after he started as U.S. Attorney.
I talked to him twice in the last couple of years, perhaps one time while I was at the White House and once or twice since I left the White House, but – not regarding his duties as U.S. Attorney, but regarding his interest in running for Governor, and he asked me questions about who – who were good people that knew about running for Governor that he could talk to.
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from running for the nomination or as a candidate for election to a partisan political office. Employees are barred from any action that can reasonably be construed as evidence an individual is seeking support for or undertaking an initial campaign to secure a nomination or election to office. Prohibited activities include canvassing or soliciting support as well as meeting with individuals to plan the logistics and strategy of a campaign.
Rove’s statements demonstrate that while Christie was the U.S. Attorney, he met with individuals to plan the logistics and strategy of a campaign and to seek support in his efforts to secure the Republican nomination for governor in violation of the Hatch Act. The Merit Systems Protection Board has held the OSC retains jurisdiction over such matters even whereas here, the employee has left the federal government.
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan stated
The Hatch Act is intended to ensure federal employees do their jobs without regard to partisan politics. Christie’s actions call into question whether the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated and prosecuted cases based on application of the law to the facts, or because certain prosecutions might have enhanced his prospects of securing the Republican nomination for governor.
Last week, Gov. Jon Corzine said the revelations contained in Rove’s interview transcripts about his conversations with Christie leaves no doubt that his opponent is a “lawbreaker.”
“It is hard to understand how a lawbreaker gets the reputations of being the king of law enforcement, and uses that as a platform,” Corzine said, adding that he too believed Christie’s conversation with Rove appeared to be a Hatch Act violation.