November 6, 2005
The Best Election Corzine Can Buy
NEWARK, N.J. -- Sen.
Jon Corzine, the New Jersey Democrat, brings his characteristic
grandiosity even to his buyer's remorse. In 2000, the former chairman
of Goldman Sachs pulled $60.2 million from his wallet to buy a
U.S. Senate seat. But just four years after the most expensive
Senate campaign in American history, he decided to escape from
that seat -- for which he paid $27,489.03 a day, prorated over
six years -- and try to become governor.
His Senate colleagues,
their feelings injured, may wonder, ``Was it something we said?''
New Jersey should wonder whether some future Corzine whim might
make him flee from Trenton, the pleasures of which might pall
on someone of his restless ambitiousness.
But before he can
regret purchasing the governorship, he must deal with Douglas
Forrester, the Republican candidate who has come from double-digit
deficits in polls two months ago to within 4 points in a recent
poll. Forrester, too, is a rich businessman, and is largely financing
his own campaign -- this is the world that campaign finance reformers
have made, with contribution limits that make fundraising more
difficult. Since securing the Democratic nomination, Corzine has
outspent Forrester by $15 million.
When Arch Moore was
running against West Virginia's Democratic governor Jay Rockefeller
in 1980, a popular bumper sticker said: ``Make him spend it all,
Arch.'' Forrester cannot make Corzine spend all his $260 million,
even if, as in 2000, Corzine pays to bus people in from Philadelphia
homeless shelters and halfway houses to do whatever such people
are paid to do on Election Day. And even if, as in 2000, Corzine's
version of faith-based campaigning contributes much more than
30 pieces of silver to some churches whose clergy then endorse
him. In 2000, Corzine -- who of course in 2002 supported the McCain-Feingold
campaign finance restrictions for others -- outspent his opponent
10-1, but won just 50-47.
Corzine's campaign spending and the $470,000 ``loan'' that he
made and forgave to his former girlfriend who heads one of the
state's largest public employee unions, with which the next governor
will negotiate. He has done well even while doing good, as he
understands that, in the Senate. The Bergen Record reports
that while serving on the Foreign Relations Committee, Corzine
voted for a treaty containing ``a narrowly crafted clause'' that
conferred a lucrative tax exemption on Corzine and some other
wealthy investors in a Japanese bank.
Forrester's two issues
-- the ideal number -- are corruption and property taxes. New
Jersey leads the nation in both. At $1,908 per capita, property
taxes are almost double the national average. And assuming, perhaps
rashly, that Hurricane Katrina disrupted business-as-usual in
Louisiana, New Jersey may now have, temporarily, the nation's
most persistently corrupt politics. When New Jersey's last elected
governor resigned after revelations of his affair with a male
assistant, the state seemed to merely shrug, perhaps because peculation
was minimally involved, for a change.
is that New Jersey has become a deep shade of blue. In 1988, George
H. W. Bush's winning margin was 13.6 percent. Just eight years
later, Bill Clinton's winning margin was 17.9 percent. Some Corzine
ads end: ``Doug Forrester: George Bush's choice for governor.
Is he yours?'' New Jersey's choice is to protest high taxes and
culture of corruption, or forever hold its peace.
In politics, boredom
can be, if not a virtue, a sign of one -- impatience with impotence.
Under Corzine's chairmanship in the 2004 election cycle, the Democratic
Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more money than its Republican
counterpart, yet Democrats suffered a net loss of four seats and
he recoiled from the prospect of a protracted Senate service in
A New Jersey governor
is an American caesar. The most powerful of all governors, he
or she is the only state official elected statewide and appoints
the other state officials. Still, some people suspect that Corzine
wants the governorship because he has his eye on another property
16 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate with which
he has become disenchanted. Many more presidents have come from
governorships than from Senate seats, and New Jersey's governor
gets attention in the largest media markets in two contiguous
blue states -- Philadelphia and New York City.
Forrester says wryly
-- and accurately -- that he would be in the Senate from which
Corzine is fleeing if in October 2002, the Democrats had not dumped
his opponent, the ethically challenged Sen. Robert Torricelli,
and replaced him with a then-retired Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Oh,
2005, Washington Post Writers Group