For an ally of Gov. Chris Christie, corruption allegations seem to pay. While prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office have begun to look into why Christie decided to shut down an investigation into one of his allies, a law firm that employs one of his closest political advisers has made more than half a million dollars defending him against the civil lawsuit that emerged out of the same controversy.
The case stems from a 2010 investigation of a Christie ally, then-Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout. Trout was alleged to hire her friends without regard to their qualifications, and without performing the necessary background checks.
The county prosecutor’s office began to investigate Trout, under the leadership of then-prosecutor Bennett Barlyn. But Barlyn was then fired from the county prosecutor’s office by the Christie administration, which prompted the civil lawsuit.
Gibbons PC, the law firm of Christie’s campaign chairman, Bill Palatucci, was hired to defend the Christie administration and the state from the civil lawsuit by Barlyn. Documents obtained by International Business Times show that the State of New Jersey has now paid $595,220 to the law firm in the case. The firm has racked up that bill, despite only representing the state in the case since mid-2014.
Palatucci is considered to be one of Christie's closest advisers. He signed the organizing papers for a new political action committee expected to promote Christie's prospective presidential campaign. His firm is serving as the counsel to the committee and he is expected to serve in a leadership role on Christie's presidential campaign. The firm's lawyers have contributed $24,000 to Christie's gubernatorial campaigns.
“Christie’s inner circle is very small and tight-knit,” said Craig Holman, an ethics expert with Public Citizen. “Palatucci is the governor’s former law partner, and closest adviser, fundraiser and gatekeeper. By hiring Palatucci as his defense counsel, Christie is keeping all of his legal problems and scandals within the family.”
This is not the first time that Christie allies have benefited from the governor’s largesse. Robert Grady, who served as Christie’s chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council, directed New Jersey state funds into a company that he was linked to privately. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who hosted the governor at football games, benefited from the closure of the Izod Center by Christie. Charlie Baker, who Christie worked to get elected governor of Massachusetts, also saw a company he worked with benefit from New Jersey pension money. And former Christie top aide Michele Brown got the job as the head of Choose New Jersey, which raises millions from businesses that have interests before the state.