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The Real Significance of “The Chairman”

[Update below]

While the NJ press corps is fixated on the United Airlines scandal, the New York Times story on David Samson’s – “The Chairman” – guilty plea understands and alludes to the real significance of The Chairman:

Wolff & Samson, which Mr. Samson helped found, enjoyed close ties to New Jersey’s government for decades. The firm served as outside counsel to state agencies and also lobbied agencies on behalf of clients seeking state contracts, favorable regulatory changes and approvals for large development projects.

We’ve tried to get investigation and media focus on Wolff and Samson’s destructive influence on regulatory policy at DEP – but virtually none of those stories were written, or the role of Wolff & Samson was ignored or minimized.

Wolff & Samson represented Rockland Capital, owner of the BL England power plant and the source of the Pinelands pipeline battle.

Other clients that got regulatory favors include PSEG and Walmart.

Wolff & Samson helped “Transform” DEP enforcement policy – including weakening toxic site cleanup standards and was the architect of a whole series of regulatory rollbacks outlined in the Christie DEP Transition Report.

Even after the scandal broke and the law firm was renamed, a Zombie Wolff & Samson lawyer led the lobbying charge in the business community’s defense of the Christie flood hazard rule rollback now pending legislative veto.

There are many other issues Wolff & Samson was involved in that I wrote about – word search in box on upper right if you are interested. I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface – so if DEP readers are in the know about other dirty deals, please drop me a line (from home, of course!).

The Chairman’s abuse of power precedes his core role in the Christie Administration.

As a low level DEP employee working on solid waste planning and finance back in the Kean and Florio administrations, I first ran across The Chairman’s wife.

I often spent hours immersed in complex contracts and finance documents, and always wondered who the really smart people at DEP were who knew this stuff and were writing the regulatory approval documents. I never seemed to come across them, even though I was directly responsible for review and approval of these documents and met with DEP managers and never heard any discussion or read memo’s that reflected the sophistication I would read in the final documents DEP issued.

Then one day I found out: the documents were written by Bond Counsel and faxed to DEP where they were put on DEP letterhead!

The Chairman’s wife had a role in all this. Her role was as a DEP Commissioner’s Office political liaison to the Bond Counsel firms representing the garbage incineration industry who were getting millions of dollars in NJ State subsides and regulatory favors from BPU, DEP and DCA.

Almost 20 years later, when I returned to DEP in 2002 at the Commissioner’s Office level, The Chairman arranged to have his wife installed as a Deputy DEP Commissioner in the McGreevey Administration. Who knows what kind of deals went down.

Makes me sick to think about the corruption I was cluelessly immersed in and/or suspected but tolerated.

[Update: 7/15/16Charlie Stile’s column buries and casually mentions a key point amid the juicy factoids in an off handed way as if there was some kind of well known consensus about it, when it’s the first time I’ve seen it expressed this clearly:

The Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which was overseen for a time by Kelly, was a virtual Christie reelection office operated out of the third floor of the State House.

I’ve been trying to get attention paid to the fact that the various scandals were not isolated events, but part of Christie’s institutionally corrupt Nixonian strategy, see:

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