The field for the 2016 Republican presidential primary is hemorrhaging moderates. Both New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker are facing criminal investigations that could knock them out of the presidential race or even end their careers.
According to the Associated Press, Governor Scott Walker is being investigated by prosecutors for possible involvement in a “criminal scheme” to “illegally coordinate fundraising with outside conservative groups.” The prosecutors believe Walker may have been involved in conspiring to violate election laws and file false campaign finance reports. Some of the possible illegal coordination is reported to not only include Walker and his staff, but prominent national Republican campaign operatives such as Karl Rove. The investigation now threatens to take down not just Walker, but pieces of the GOP’s national machinery.
Prosecutors said Walker, his chief of staff Keith Gilkes and top adviser R.J. Johnson were discussing illegal coordination with a number of national groups and prominent figures, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.
AP learned of the investigation from the release of previously secret court documents ordered by a judge in response to a suit brought by the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
Then there is Governor Chris Christie who, according to Esquire, may be the ultimate target of a probe by US Attorney Paul Fishman. It was already rather clear that some previous members of the Christie’s Administration were facing charges, but now it is reported that the endgame for the US Attorney leading the case might be an indictment of Christie himself.
The key is flipping one of Chris Christie’s political mentors and former Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Samson. Samson recently resigned from the Port Authority which Christie claimed was prearranged but skeptics noted was just after Christie’s own investigation was completed. Samson, along with former Port Authority officials Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, have been under criminal investigation due to the illegal lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.
Samson has also been the subject of investigations into land deals the Port Authority and Samson’s law firm, Wolff Samson, were involved in throughout the state. But will Samson roll on Christie?
Federal charges in the bridge closures potentially include both intentional interference in interstate commerce and — in the cover-up that ensued — obstruction of justice. The use of Port Authority money, raised by issuing bonds, to pay for non-PA projects will likely result in charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit same; the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating on this front, along with the Manhattan District Attorney, who’s seeking evidence to support state charges of falsifying business records and official misconduct. Charges derived from David Samson’s numerous conflicts of interest while serving as a PA official could, in Hoboken’s case, include federal charges of extortion under the Hobbs Act, and New York state charges of official misconduct and corruption.
The clearest, quickest road to Christie, both sources agree, runs through David Samson, a former Attorney General of New Jersey who’s 74 years old and reportedly suffers from Parkinson’s disease. So: Will Samson flip?
Even in the event Samson does not flip and goes down with the other Christie Administration officials it is going to be hard for Governor Christie to sell himself as a proponent of good government, a model worth taking nation-wide.
Thanks to these criminal investigations both Walker and Christie may be sitting out 2016, opening the way for more extreme candidates to vie for the nomination.