Corzine's bizarre behavior since the former head of Goldman Sachs left
the governor's mansion in New Jersey to take a re-entry level job as
head of MF Global has been the subject of much speculation. Especially
the part about the missing $600 million.
They found it. They didn't find it. It was misplaced in the commodity
market. It's in this bank vault or in that bank vault. It's all very
If there were anything wrong with what he did or didn't do, my guess
is that it would have something to do with the time he spent living and
working in New Jersey.
As a resident of that state, I am proud to say we are leaders in
bizarre behavior by respected members of the political and business
Do you remember the case of the Missing Salad Oil,
a major corporate scandal of 1963? A shrewd investor named Anthony
"Tino" De Angelis of Allied Crude Vegetable Oil, a little-known company
in Bayonne, N.J., caused something like $150 million in losses to
American Express, Bank of America, Bank Leumi, and international trading
companies. He set off a market panic when word spread that his company had used nonexistent vegetable oil as collateral for loans from major banks:
The fraud was audacious -- Allied exploited the fact that
oil floated on water, fooling inspectors into thinking that the tanks
they were measuring were full of oil. The fallout bankrupted several
companies, brought down two major Wall Street firms, and caused American
Express to lose half its stock value, ultimately leading it to sell its
The whole mess was so New Jersey.
Click to see more images...
Anthony "Tino" De Angelis
When I was growing up, my favorite skit on the Bob & Ray
radio show involved two New Jersey mayors debating whose administration
was more corrupt. Either Bob or Ray won the debate by claiming he had
the nation's only corrupt visiting-nurse program.
Whatever you call it, my local newspaper's Website, beside links for
sports, obituaries, and weather, has one for "corruption" -- popular
with those whose pastime is keeping current on who has been indicted.
Our culture of bizarre behavior is so ingrained, so pervasive, that
you just can't shake it. It's in the air we breathe. New Jersey natives
develop antibodies that keep most of us on the straight and narrow.
The thing about the Governor, as we fans still call him, is he was a
carpetbagger. As a farm boy from Willey Station, near the metropolis of
Taylorville, Ill., he was especially vulnerable by the time he reached
Trenton, after a short stay in Washington, where he was accused of the
bizarre behavior of spending $60 million for his Senate seat.
When Chris Christie was the federal prosecutor in New Jersey, he
said, in effect, "Every time I finish a major case and put 10 guys in
jail, the next morning there were another 20 cases on my desk." That's
the real New Jersey.
I'm not saying the Governor had anything to do with that kind of
people. Still, hanging out with politicians, who do all they do in the
name of good government just to see what's in it for themselves, you can
The Corzine administration was perhaps most remembered for his
eyebrow- and hair-raising crash on the Turnpike. A trooper was driving
at 90mph with the Governor, who was not wearing a seat belt. That's the
sort of conduct you expect from a teenager, not a chief executive.
Respect for law and order was even worse in the Governor's adopted
hometown of Hoboken. Onetime Mayor Frank Hague, the boss of Hudson
County, was famous for being the last to turn in his county's vote. As
Hudson County went, we all knew, so went New Jersey. One year,
Republicans had the audacity to contest an election result. A federal
judge ordered a recount. The ballot boxes were sequestered in the county
courthouse overnight. There was a great tragedy that night. The
courthouse burned down.
Last year in Hoboken, the mayor went to prison for bribery. He was
inaugurated July 20 and arrested July 23. And he had run for office on a
clean government ticket. The previous mayor was in a halfway house
after being convicted of taking bribes. The previous one was still in
jail for the same crime.
So if Corzine did anything wrong in his job at MF Global, his lawyers
can claim he was a victim of his environment. The Jersey Defense could
be as effective as the Twinkie Defense.
All of this is bad timing for us friends of Corzine. We're in the
process of petitioning the Turnpike Authority to name a service station
on the Turnpike after the Governor -- our state's highest honor. The
Joyce Kilmer station near Exit 3 is especially irrelevant. Who is she,
Failing that, we're sure there is some rotten bridge between Newark
and Harrison that's ready to collapse because the state money to fix it