Corzine for Treasury? Don't Bet on It.
I was going to crack wise about all the (potentially manufactured) buzz that President-elect Obama is considering New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine for secretary of the Treasury. And then I saw that "Wally Edge" of politicsnj.com beat me to the punchline.
If the leader of the Garden State had to fill out Obama's rather probing questionnaire for executive branch hopefuls, there's no way he could honestly answer Question No. 8 ("Briefly describe the most controversial matters you have been involved with during the course of your career") or Question No. 13 (on electronic communications "that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public") -- or Questions 25, 31, 57 or 63 for that matter -- without blowing his chances in Washington or creating more trouble for himself in Trenton.
Surely, Obama transition officials know the world of trouble Corzine's in over e-mail traffic with Carla Katz, his ex-girlfriend, who happens to be the leader of a labor union that represents the largest number of state workers. Enemies of both Corzine and Katz have been trying to uncover whether the two, who also live in the same condo building in Hoboken, conducted secret labor negotiations. Their attorneys were in court on Thursday fighting an order from a New Jersey Superior Court judge to release nearly 800 pages of e-mail.
But the presidential vetting process could uncover a lot more about Corzine that could "be a possible source of embarrassment." For, in the parlance of Facebook, the relationship between Corzine and Katz is complicated.
I know of what I speak because Katz is a friend, and I have given her advice at various points in the drama that has unspooled since Aug. 4, 2005, when then-Sen. Corzine was a candidate for governor and the New York Times broke the story that he had given and forgiven Katz a $470,000 mortgage to buy her house.
The media pressed the candidate and the union leader to reveal any other financial ties. They both demured. But once Corzine won the statehouse and everything had settled down a bit, he stirred the pot again during a March 2007 interview with The Star-Ledger, when he mused hypothetically that he could have set up trusts to fund the education of Katz's two children. This set off another flurry of reports, revealing that Corzine's generosity to Katz was in excess of $6 million.
That Corzine's name is now being bandied about for Treasury secretary isn't surprising. The former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs is a very smart man. He thrives on chaos and on being able to find the way out of whatever problem he must confront. No doubt this skill set would be useful with the economy in freefall and solutions to slowing the global slide few and far between. But Corzine would be one odd cabinet choice for a president-elect allergic to drama. That's why you shouldn't be surprised if Obama tells Corzine to stay put by borrowing former Garden State governor Tom Kean's famous tagline: "New Jersey and you, perfect together."
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