Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher, wandered around holding a lantern even in broad daylight. When asked why, he said: “I am looking for an honest man.’’
The voters of New Jersey should relate to this story. For, if their candidates for governor are as weak ethically as they seem to be, virtue is in short supply.
The latest revelation concerns the Republican candidate, Chris Christie, who has been touting his record as a corruption fighter. Now, it turns out, Christie lent one of his top assistants $46,000 but failed to report it, in stark violation of state and federal ethics rules.
Michele Brown, who was Christie’s executive assistant and counsel, when he was the federal prosecutor, got the loan. Christie admits he received a second mortgage on Ms. Brown’s home in October, 2007 and that she has been paying it off.
The transaction raises disturbing questions, notably: if Ms. Brown was supposed to give her boss impartial advice on matters before him, would she be influenced by the fact that she was financially indebted to him? What they did was clearly in violation of the rules.
Christie’s explanation that Ms. Brown and her husband were good friends sounded lame: ’’I just believe that if you have friends who are in need, that you help them. We were happy to be able to help and they’ve been great about repaying the loan.”
Christie the prosecutor would never have tolerated that excuse from someone he was investigating. Obviously Christie the candidate has different values.
Christie has been attacking his Democratic opponent, Gov. Jon Corzine, for bearing much responsibility for the disarray among Democratic officeholders, as mayor after mayor---and many others----have been arrested on corruption charges.
Corzine, back in 2007, wrestled with a scandal that Republicans relished. It turned out that he had a romance with Carla Katz, a major union official. That relationship, which began when he was a U.S senator, raised the issue of whether Corzine could be trusted to negotiate with the state’s unions without being accused of a conflict of interest.
Corzine and Katz parted and she received a cash settlement of more than 6 million dollars.
As each candidate wrestles with charges and innuendos involving ethics, it should be noted that it’s not too late for either party to change candidates. In this ethically challenged state, there is some history that bears this out.
Thus, back in October, 2002, when Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped out of his race for re-election after being reprimanded for ethics violations, Democratic Party leaders chose Frank Lautenberg to replace him on the ballot.
Not that either candidate is likely to drop out this time, but it’s interesting that, in the corruption-encrusted history of New Jersey, it has happened before.
If Diogenes were around today and announced: “I’m looking for an ethical candidate,” chances are New Jersey wouldn’t make it. Diogenes would have to keep looking.