Corzine broaches Ashcroft contract in new ad

Governor Corzine has launched a television commercial attacking Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie for his awarding of federal monitoring contracts as U.S. Attorney.

The 30 second spot begins by asking “A million lawyers in America. So who did Chris Christie give contracts to?”

The ad focuses on the three instances where Christie’s awarding of federal monitoring contracts made news: the one that awarded former U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft’s firm a contract worth $28 to $52 million; the one awarded to the law firm Stern & Kilcullen, where Christie’s friend and political advisor, former Morris County John Inglesino, is a partner, and where several partners and their spouses later donated to Christie's gubernatorial bid; and the one awarded to former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney David Kelley, who had prosecuted members of Christie’s brother’s financial firm but had, according to the ad, “let Christie's brother suspected of stock fraud off the hook.”

Since news that the Ashcroft contract was worth as much as $52 million broke in 2007, Democrats have used it as political ammunition against Christie, who is building his candidacy on his reputation as a corruption-busting U.S. Attorney. Although the Corzine campaign already has negative ads running about Christie, this is the first time the Governor has brought up his record as U.S. Attorney.

The revelations about the contracts led U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) and Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) to write legislation reforming the way deferred prosecution agreements – in which companies agree to pay for federal monitors in order to avoid prosecution – are awarded. Christie testified in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law in a contentious hearing last month, which he called a “political circus.”

The Christie camp called the ad a "slur."

"While Chris Christie is out on the trail talking about real solutions to turn around Corzine's failing economy, Governor Corzine responds with what he does best – throwing his millions behind negative, misleading attacks," said Christie Campaign Manager Bill Stepien. "New Jerseyans are frustrated with Mr. Corzine's tired and out of touch tactics, and who can blame them when they're facing skyrocketing unemployment and suffocating new taxes."

"This meeting is entirely off the record. Until somebody leaks it."
—Michael Kempner, addressing a roomful of Democratic powerbrokers organizng for Hillary Clinton