Showing a mastery of the Friday press release, on Friday the 16th the Governor announced a task force to study a State takeover of county prosecutors. The Governor is questioning whether or not the state needs 21 sex crimes units and 21 gangs units. State Attorney General Paula Dow will make the final recommendation.
On its face, this is a rational cost saving measure. In context, however, this is another step in a march towards consolidating investigative power in the executive branch, i.e., in the hands of New Jersey's Governor, who is already the most powerful Governor in the country by means of the New Jersey Constitution.
By way of reminder, as a Federal prosecutor Chris Christie was one of seventeen members of an advisory council to Alberto Gonzalez. As such, Christie had a front row seat to the politicization of the Justice Department.
And in 2006, shortly before the 2006 election, Federal prosecutor Christie brought an indictment against an anti-poverty organization in Bergen County with ties to Senator Robert Menendez. The indictment was announced a month or so before voters went to the polls to choose between re-electing Menendez or voting for his Republican rival, State Senator Tom Keane, Jr. Menendez and Kean were in a very tight race. Four years later, no charges have been brought as a result of the indictment, yet the indictment remains open and Menendez cannot clear his name.
Finally, this year the Governor moved to bring almost all of the State's investigative control under the wing of the executive branch. The Public Advocate has been eliminated, and both the independent Inspector General and the independent Medicaid Inspector General have been merged into the State Comptrollers Office, which is in the executive branch. The sole holdout is the State Commission of Investigation, which is housed in the legislature.
So will the county prosecutors be merged into a State agency similar to the Department of Justice? It depends on whether or not Paula Dow will choose to vastly expand her personal power and influence. In other words, there's a very good chance.
Which means that this Governor, who has a history of using the investigative power of the State and the power of the indictment for purely political motives is amassing a frightening amount of power.