- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TRENTON, N.J. | New Jersey Republican gubernatorial contender Chris Christie accused Democrats of “fake outrage” over a $46,000 loan he made to a federal prosecutor he supervised, one more sign that the closely watched race is already heating up.

Mr. Christie, a former U.S. attorney running on an anti-corruption platform, said Democrats are deliberately prolonging the story of the loan in an effort to distract voters from focusing on Gov. Jon Corzine’s record.

But Mr. Corzine said he was troubled that his opponent may have politicized the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is supposed to be run independent of partisan politics.

The governor and challenger traded barbs during separate campaign events Monday as the campaign intensified between an unpopular Democratic incumbent and a law-and-order champion whose image has been tarnished by perceived ethical missteps.

Mr. Christie made the loan to Michele Brown when she worked under him at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Ms. Brown, who is now the No. 2 person in the office behind Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, is repaying Mr. Christie in monthly installments of $500.

She also is involved in helping fulfill the Democrats’ request for documents from Mr. Christie’s seven years as U.S. attorney, including records of travel by Mr. Christie and senior staff. Mr. Corzine’s running mate, Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck, said it’s a conflict for Ms. Brown to be involved in retrieving the records and asked that she be removed.

“I think the kind of fake hysteria and fake outrage that the other side is showing is really kind of crazy,” Mr. Christie said during a teleconference with reporters. He accused the Corzine campaign of trying to distract voters from the governor’s poor fiscal record, which he said included high taxes and higher unemployment than neighboring states.

Mr. Christie, who has had few public appearances with only scarce press availability since news of the loan broke, tried Monday to steer the discussion back to the economy by accusing Mr. Corzine of lobbying for a tax break that benefited Enron Corp. while he was CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Mr. Corzine, who helped draft legislation while in the Senate that led to the Sarbanes-Oxley package of corporate reforms after the Enron scandal, dismissed the attack as factually inaccurate. The governor said it reminded him of similar accusations the Republicans lobbed at him during the 2005 gubernatorial race.

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