U.S. Attorney Investigated; 'Politics' Attributed to His Drive against New Jersey Corruption

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 24, 2009 | Go to article overview

U.S. Attorney Investigated; 'Politics' Attributed to His Drive against New Jersey Corruption


Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Reports that President Obama's Justice Department has begun an internal ethics investigation into acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra Jr.'s remarks about the root causes of corruption in New Jersey raised suspicions in certain political circles last week.

Associated Press reported that the department's obscure Office of Professional Responsibility was investigating comments made by Mr. Marra about the depth of corruption in the state that some officials think may have crossed the line into politics. But some outside observers think it may be the department's actions that were motivated by politics.

Mr. Marra is continuing the sweeping federal corruption investigation that late last month led to the arrests of 44 people, 29 of whom were elected or public officials. The arrests were part of a long-term anti-corruption crusade begun by U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie, who resigned his post in December to run against embattled Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

Official corruption in the state has become a huge political issue that threatens Mr. Corzine's bid for re-election to a second term in November. Polls show Mr. Christie, who convicted 130 public officials over his seven-year tenure, has been leading him by double digits for months.

Mr. Corzine's problem is how to defuse the corruption issue. Enter the Justice Department, which AP says has launched an investigation into Mr. Marra over public comments that may have helped his ex-boss' campaign for governor, referring to Mr. Christie. The AP story is based on Justice Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The department itself refuses to comment on it one way or the other.

The investigation revolves around remarks Mr. Marra made at a news conference last month to announce the arrests. Asked about corruption in the state, Mr. Marra said: There are easily reforms that could be made within this state that would make our job easier, or even take some of the load off our job. There are too many people that profit off the system the way it is, and so they have no incentive to change it. The few people that want to change it seem to get shouted down. So how long that cycle's going to continue, I just don't know.

It's a statement with which few, if anyone, would disagree, and it certainly falls within the definition of fair public comment on why New Jersey has been victimized by decades of largely Democratic corruption - and, sadly, has been defined by it.

A Corzine campaign official declined to comment on Mr. Marra's remarks because, as he put it, we don't want to criticize an investigation and politicize it. …

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