Reprinted from Truthdig
If after last week's Bridgegate indictments you thought Chris Christie was finally done as the focus of government investigations, think again. The Republican governor's administration in New Jersey is facing a whole new inquiry -- this one involving hundreds of millions of dollars, and not just blocked-off bridge lanes.
At issue are the fees being paid by New Jersey's beleaguered public pension system to Wall Street firms. In recent years, Christie's officials have shifted more of the retirement savings of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers into the hands of private financial firms. That has substantially increased the management fees paid by taxpayers to those firms. Indeed, while Christie says the pension system cannot afford to maintain current retirement benefits, pension fees paid to financial firms have quadrupled to $600 million a year -- or $1.5 billion in total since he took office in 2010.
In recent months, details have emerged showing that Christie officials have directed lucrative pension management deals to some financial companies whose executives have made contributions to Republican groups backing Christie's election campaigns. Additionally, Christie's officials have admitted that they have not been fully disclosing all the fees the state has been paying to private financial firms.
Not surprisingly, this has made the trustees who oversee the state's retirement system more than a little bit nervous -- especially since the ever-higher fees have coincided with below-median returns for the state's pension fund. So the trustees began asking questions, and when they didn't get the answers they were looking for, they announced in April that they are launching a formal investigation of the matter.