The Koch Brothers and Big Oil & Gas are watching
David Reilly wrote a followup story in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer on the Christie Pinelands retaliation scheme, see:
I am glad to see the press stay engaged with this issue, so will make a few observations on Reilly’s story.
First of all, Reilly relies on political pollster Patrick Murray to explain the politics. But Murray muddies the water for two reasons.
First, Murray must not be closely following this issue because he filters this dispute through 2 traditional lenses:
1) National: Gov. Christie is running for President and cares only about right wing primary voters who do not support the environment; 2) In state/NJ: how the environment stacks up as an issue compared to other priority issues (code for jobs and economic growth).
From the national perspective, Murray ignores the fact that the pipeline is a test of Christie’s ability to deliver on major fossil energy infrastructure projects – the Koch Brothers and Big Oil & Gas are watching.
Crushing environmental and democratic (small “d”) opposition to energy infrastructure is a key test to attract the Big energy money required to fuel a 2016 campaign, especially if it can be done on a “bi-partisan” basis (note: with the support of Democrats Van Drew & Sweeney and a Democratically controlled Senate and mobilized trade unions).
Does Murray not recognize the national significance of pipeline and energy infrastructure debates, given the exploding Climate Movement?
Murray is simply dead wrong when he says:
“there’s no political pressure for him [Christie] to pay,” said Murray,
From the NJ instate perspective, first, this is not a traditional “jobs versus environment” issue.
Murray ignores the bi-partisan letter from 4 former Governor’s that elevate this issue way beyond that stale debate.
This is about the integrity of the Pinelands Commission and whether Gov.’s will be allowed to get away with abuses of power that compromise their independence as a regulatory body.
Evidence of the importance of the issue can be seen by the fact that Chairman Scutari used Republican Senator Bateman as the initial attack dog in questioning the nominee on the pipeline. In his questions, Bateman cited Gov. Brendan Byrne’s [D] legacy and asked the nominees whether we should go backward and weaken regulations that protect the Pines.
Similarly, Democrats on the Committee cited the Gov.’s letter.
It also explains why Gov. Christie’ strongest backers on the Judiciary Committee, Kyrillos and O’Toole, did not lift a finger to defend the Gov.’s nominees and let them twist in the wind.
Second on the in-state political issues is the fact that the fate of the nominees is in the hands of Senate Democrats.
So, from Gov. Christie’s perspective, this is a test of his machine alliances -
George Norcross is all over South Jersey infrastructure and economic development decisions. The pipeline has been justified as a major south jersey economic development project. That means Norcross/Sweeney are involved.
Accordingly, there very likely were prior political commitments and agreements made that now test Christie’s ability to honor deals he may have made with Senate President Sweeney and the South Jersey wing, represented by Van Drew.
Keep in mind that Van Drew has publicly stated on the record that he has the support of Sweeeney and the Gov.’s Office in backing the pipeline.
From the Senate Democrats’ perspective, the NJ political issue is the South v. North intra-Democratic party split and the degree to which South Jersey machine deals with Christie will be allowed to continue.
Which takes us to our next point – how and why were these nominees selected?
The Gov.’s motives are obvious – just like the Mob enforcing discipline, he is retaliating for 2 Commissioners voting their conscience, particularly Ms. Rohan Greene who is a republican and Christie nominee.
The nominees were handled the way they were to give the Governor and the Gov.’s office a plausible deniability of direct involvement.
The deals likely were made by political surrogates.
The Gov.’s office low level staffers were just the waterboys.
Evidence suggesting this was brought out by Sen. Gill, who asked a key question that nominee Roohr failed to respond to.
Gill asked if anyone mentioned the Gov.’s position on the pipeline – that conversation would go something like this:
Q: “Are you a loyal team player” A: Yes, of course.
Q: “Gov. Christie supports the pipeline and BL England plant as critical to south jersey’s economic development and believes it can be built with no harm to the Pinelands.
“Are you willing to accept the nomination? – A: Yes
See how political understandings are reached? The quid pro quo remains unsaid.
But the nominees know EXACTLY what is expected of them in return for the nomination.