Former Gov. Jon Corzine left office more than three years ago, but state Republicans - including Gov. Chris Christie - continue to rail against "Corzine Democrats."
They must have polling data that shows New Jersey residents aren't real fond of the former Democratic governor. Between his lackluster tenure as governor and his subsequent role as head of
MF Global, a multinational futures broker, when hundreds of millions of dollars in customer funds apparently were used to cover the company's own bad trades, Corzine isn't a very popular guy.
But a recent quip by Christie about "the Corzine years" was a perfect example of how Christie manipulates the truth to make himself look good - something he does habitually.
In an answer to a caller on NJ 101.5's "Ask the Governor" radio show, Christie said: "The people who were running the budget in the Corzine years decided to steal from the unemployment trust fund ... as did other governors before. We simply don't do that, haven't done it and won't permit it."
The problem: Corzine didn't do it either.
PolitiFact New Jersey investigated Christie's claim, and here's what the nonpartisan fact-checking organization found:
Governors and lawmakers of both parties did, in fact, raid the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund to cover charity-care payments to state hospitals. Over the years, $4.6 billion was diverted, leaving the fund nearly empty in March 2009 when it was being swamped with claims due to the recession. The state borrowed $1.8 billion from the federal government to cover those claims and is now repaying that money.
But the last governor to divert money from the unemployment fund was acting Gov. Richard Codey, who preceded Corzine. The much-maligned Corzine was actually the first governor in years to authorize a payment - $260 million - into the fund, PolitiFact found.
Furthermore, of the $4.6 billion diverted from the fund, 67 percent of it was diverted as a result of legislation passed by Republican-controlled Legislatures between 1992 and 1997, according to the fact-checkers.
And finally, this diversion of funds that Christie says he "won't permit"? It's not up to him. A ballot initiative approved by voters in 2010 forbids any diversion of unemployment funds without voter approval.
The whole thing is reminiscent of the speeches Christie makes around the nation touting the fact that he has signed three balanced budgets. Well, yeah. The New Jersey Constitution requires a balanced budget. (Besides, Christie's budgets are "balanced" the same way all New Jersey governors balance their budgets - with inflated revenue projections and crossed fingers.)
PolitiFact ruled that Christie's response on the radio program was "Mostly False." You might argue that what Christie said was an offhand comment made live, and so he deserves some slack. But in fact, it fits right in with his disturbing pattern of ... well, not telling the whole truth.