Jon & Joanne & Carla & Bob
WASHINGTON -- From Delaware to New York, 21 lighthouses stand sentinel over New Jersey's shoreline. Their lights protect seafarers of all kind from pirates and shipwreckers. But not from Sen. Jon Corzine, the Democrats' nominee for governor.
On Tuesday, Jersey voters will bear the duty to show that a financial portfolio worth $261 million cannot buy the door key to Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion in Princeton. New Jersey, sometimes known as the State of Corruption, will choose between Corzine and Republican business executive Doug Forrester for governor.
In 1998, Corzine, then in his early 50s, was voted out as chief executive officer and co-chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment company. He toyed with some business ventures and won -- some say bought for about $62 million -- a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Since November 2000, Corzine has been one of us in Washington. Obviously a patriotic and honorable person, he represents New Jersey and, among his many other duties, is assigned to serve on the Energy, Banking, Housing, Budget and Intelligence committees.
Corzine's days, filled with Senate business and the campaign for governor, have been intolerably busy. But his nights have been lonely.
Joanne Corzine, his wife for 33 years but divorced in 2002, was very unhappy, making a statement that "politics had a noxious effect" on their relationship. Corzine, always a true gentleman, merely said, "I accept my responsibility for this decision."
When he arrived in Washington, Corzine met up with his old friend and political mentor, another senator from the State of Corruption, Robert Torricelli. "The Torch," as he loathes being called, resigned his Senate seat in midcampaign for re-election, just as his penchant for gift-getting and gift-taking made the headlines.
Torricelli became Corzine's Svengali. He told him where to eat, whom to greet and where to meet the lobbyists who would advance both their Senate careers. The duo has remained close, and there are many Torricelli fingerprints on today's Corzine campaign.
"The Torch" now represents an array of developers. He has a real-estate portfolio that includes four downtown Trenton office buildings within walking distance of the governor's office and a court-appointed "mastership" for the cleanup of a polluted river. Corzine, as governor, would be worth a great deal to Torricelli.
Perhaps, in their early Washington days, "The Torch," a happy bachelor (and said to be a delightful ladies man), set a bad example. But it is said that he introduced a good friend, the unusually attractive Carla Katz, to Corzine. And he and the dark-haired Carla, president of Local 1034 of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), began a two-year-long relationship.
Their business, right?
No, the voters' business.
Carla, at a salary of about $90,000 a year, represents about 9,000 people who work for the state of New Jersey. If Corzine becomes governor, he would have to bargain with Carla for the salaries and benefits of her members.
Apart from anything else, Carla lives in a 205-year-old farmhouse built alongside a stream. It was purchased from her ex-husband with a $470,000 gift from Corzine.
But there is another farmhouse whose owner can listen to a stream. That owner is Bob Torricelli.
Today, both farmhouses will be forever spared the building of more homes in their vicinity because the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gave them both exemptions under the Highlands Act. And, as Carla and Bobby listen from their pastoral homes to the gurgling stream, they have to be thinking of the 2,370 workers from Local 1034 who work for the DEP.
However, none of this can matter to Jon Corzine because that other peripatetic ex-governor, Bill Clinton, is out campaigning for him, as are his fellow senators Hillary Clinton and Teddy Kennedy. They say, with Bill, that they believe in Corzine and want him to win the gubernatorial race.
What else could be expected from Kennedy and Bill• But Hillary still commands respect from some women, particularly working women such as the members of the CWA's Local 1034.
If a Republican CEO of a major corporation had an affair with the boss of the union representing his workers, ended the affair and paid her nearly a half-million dollars, can't we all hear Hillary wailing her protests•
Not surprisingly, Local 1034 has endorsed Corzine's candidacy and Ms. Katz has achieved a further three years as the local's president by disqualifying all members of the slate running against her.
Jon Corzine gives lavishly to a wide range of ministers and organizations that not only help the poor but also get out the vote on Election Day. But let's hope that Jon Corzine remains in Washington to serve out his term in the U.S. Senate. New Jersey deserves better than him in Drumthwacket.
Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer.