Christie says: Lay off his brother SEC probe that cleared Todd Christie is unfair game, he said.

Posted: April 07, 2009

Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher J. Christie lashed out at his opponents yesterday for making a campaign issue out of a federal investigation of his brother, Todd Christie, that was resolved last year.

The Securities and Exchange Commission cleared Todd Christie of wrongdoing in October, but stories about the SEC's accusing him of making illegal transactions while an NYSE trader have been circulating on blogs and in newspapers since Thursday.

"My brother is being dragged through the mud here for something he did not do," Christopher Christie said during a Statehouse news conference yesterday.

He said the allegations were being pushed by "desperate candidates and their political caddies who all just throw dirt up against the wall and see if it will stick."

Christie said yesterday that most of the questionable trades occurred on a day when his brother was in a hospital.

But in case anyone following the campaign missed the stories, Christie's Republican primary opponent, Steve Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, sent out an e-mail at 5:45 a.m. yesterday listing the stories as well as others from previous years about Todd Christie and the SEC.

Christopher Christie said he called yesterday's news conference because he was "sick of reading" about his brother as well as questions raised over contracts he issued while U.S. attorney.

Christie said that even after yesterday's news conference he doubted the attacks would go away.

"You think the Democratic attack machine is going to say, 'Gee, those are logical answers. We'll go onto something else,' " he said. "That's not Jon Corzine's history. His campaigns are vicious, personal, negative campaigns. That's what this one will be. If you had his record, you wouldn't talk about it."

Besides attacks from Lonegan, Christie has been attacked for more than two weeks by Democratic Gov. Corzine's surrogates.

The surrogates, legislators and congressmen, have challenged him to come up with a detailed state budget proposal and noted that he took campaign contributions from people associated with a North Jersey law firm to which he gave a contract.

As U.S. attorney, Christie awarded contracts to law firms to oversee companies accused of criminal conduct. Christie said he would no longer accept campaign contributions from anyone who received a monitoring contract from him.

"Now that I see what a distraction this is, I'm not taking a contribution from anybody who I appointed to a monitorship," he said.

Among those receiving the monitoring contracts were his old boss, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and David Kelley, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who oversaw the investigation that included Todd Christie.

Christie and Kelley said they never had and never would discuss the Todd Christie investigation.

Kelley, now in private practice at a Manhattan law firm, said yesterday that he, too, was tired of being drawn into a political campaign.

He challenged anyone to find a blemish on his 20-year record as a federal prosecutor.

"I think being pulled into this mud-slinging fest is especially unfair to me particularly, since many of the allegations can't be fully rebutted without talking about cases and charging decisions that would be wholly inappropriate for me to do," he said. "Not only is it unfair to me, but it's also unfair to the Office of the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York which for more than two centuries has been the standard-bearer and flagship office of the Department of Justice."

Democrats persisted in their criticism.

The party chairman, Joseph Cryan, also a Union County assemblyman, said in a statement that "Christie wants us to believe that in a country with more than a million lawyers, the one most qualified to receive this no-bid contract is the one that let his brother off for stock fraud. I think the people of New Jersey are smarter than that."

Also yesterday, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 809 registered voters conducted between March 30 and Sunday found Christie beating Corzine in a hypothetical general election matchup by 42 percent to 33 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Contact staff writer Cynthia Burton at 856-779-3858 or cburton@phillynews.com.

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