- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - The “swamp” hasn’t drained - at least not yet - and politics doesn’t take a break just because an election is over.

Those were the takeaways from Thursday’s New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner, where lobbyists, politicians and business leaders schmoozed.

President Donald Trump won in November in part on a promise to “drain the swamp,” but Democrats, Republicans and a host of business leaders from New Jersey carried on with their junket, often described as “networking on steroids.”

Republican Gov. Chris Christie delivered the keynote address and warned the candidates running to succeed him in this year’s election that they shouldn’t overpromise.

Christie focused on the 2016 election and New Jersey, but Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, considered a potential 2020 presidential contender, delivered a sweeping speech that touched on economic opportunity and tolerance.



A closer look at the mix of national and New Jersey politics in play:

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CHRISTIE CHASTISES CANDIDATES

Christie, a two-term governor and former presidential candidate, steered clear of Trump during his roughly half-hour speech. His speech came during a whirlwind week that included lunch at the White House with Trump and conversation about the nation’s opioid epidemic. He said they didn’t talk about any jobs for him in Trump’s administration.

In his speech, Christie skipped the national focus embraced in years past at the dinner and instead delivered a stern warning to the Democratic and Republican candidates running for governor in New Jersey. He told them to quit overpromising on items like making a full - instead of partial - public pension payment. He told reporters later he was directing his comment at members of both parties.

“Those promises that are being made out there are just foolhardy,” he told reporters.

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BOOKER’S BIG-PICTURE FOCUS

Booker, New Jersey’s junior senator and a former Newark mayor, faces re-election in 2020 in the Senate but has been heightening his profile lately. He notably testified against Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearings to become U.S. attorney general, breaking with precedent that held that senators do not oppose their colleagues. It looks to some as if he’s laying the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign. But in a CNN interview last month, he said he is focused on resisting Trump, not on 2020.

On Thursday, he sketched an image of a criminal justice system that was unfair to the poor and immigrants, especially, and invoked the image of the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of America’s long history of welcoming immigrants. The tone seemed to contrast sharply with Trump, who promised to build a wall financed by Mexico on the southern border.

“We are a nation because - refugee or alien - we literally have a statue erected, the Mother of Exiles, to defy to the rest of the world (if) you don’t want them, we see them,” Booker said. “We love them. We love the stranger. We love the immigrant. We love the prisoner.”

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SWAMP DRAINING?

Trump signed an executive order that would ban members of his administration from lobbying for five years after leaving government in the earliest days of his term. Still, in New Jersey anyway, lobbying is alive and well. The nearly 1,000 attendees paid up to nearly $400 for the trip, whose sponsors included some of the biggest businesses in the state.

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