In March 2007, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued in Department of Injustice that partisan tactics of Bush administration prosecutors like New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie were likely to be more dangerous than the purge of nine other U.S. attorneys for political reasons.
The new book Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie illustrates that Krugman correctly identified the real scandal as the largely hidden decision-making of those retained during the Rove era as “loyal Bushies” in 94 regional U.S. attorneys offices.
Author Louis Manzo provides a riveting account of how Christie abused his prosecutor’s post to save his job — and then won two terms as governor beginning in 2009. This positioned Christie by early this year as a front-runner for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.
We have reported extensively in recent months on both Christie’s presidential prospects, the bridge traffic scandal in New Jersey and on Manzo’s book, which was available for shipping April 16. This is our first column tying these topics together after reading the book.
The author is a former Jersey City mayoral candidate whom Christie’s successors arrested in 2009 on corruption charges. Manzo then vindicated himself in 2012 from claims he had accepted a bribe from Solomon Dwek, a government informant Christie recruited to pose as a corrupt donor to Democrats.
Manzo, a former city health director with a talent for research, probably dooms any hope Christie may hold for future elective office. The book revelations help Republican and Democratic critics of Christie.
Years ago, Krugman’s column helped prompt me to write investigative reports for the Huffington Post and elsewhere documenting dubious prosecutions around the nation by those like Christie permitted to keep their prosecutor jobs during the 2006 political purge. Later, I founded the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project to monitor such cases more systematically.
That perspective has enabled me to chronicle and assess for more than four years Manzo’s brave fight against the odds. Some 97 percent of those federally accused plead guilty, thereby giving prosecutors near unlimited power. Once indicted, a defendant typically loses friends, job, savings — and often family and self-respect.
Manzo lost his home and savings, but persevered to win his freedom. Now he provides a devastating and rare account of the purge scandal’s consequences, most notably in showcasing what it takes for a politician (Christie in this instance) to ascend from the pack to nationwide stature.