Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Smooth move, future guv'na

I can't get over how starved people are for a political rock star that most of the public and the media don't see U.S. Attorney Chris Christie for the ever-so-partisan politician he is. He's smart, sure enough, but deceptive.

Last night, the Star-Ledger broke a peek at reality by reporting how Christie is using the $311 million settlement he got against the four biggest companies in the knee/hip replacement industry to kick back a record $52 million to his old boss, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who could go on the campaign trail himself again in his home state of Missouri just as Christie is expected to be the Republican savior for the 2009 gubernatorial ticket here.

And Ashcroft's is one of several law firms the settlement is employing, which seems to leave little of that $311 left to compensate the actual victims.

The complexity of how this money gets laundered (my opinion, not a legal judgment) from the corporations to Ashcroft's bank account -- $750,000 of it literally -- is quite fascinating. I can't help but imagine this might have been a point of discussion in Christie's legal negotiations. Because of confidentiality of lawyers and investigators, I'm guessing we'll never know exactly how this deal went down, even though it was our tax money.

Watch for these companies and their top dogs as contributors to Ashcroft's or Christie's political campaigns down the road: Stryker Orthopedics of Mahwah; the Biomet division of Johnson & Johnson; Zimmer Holdings of Indiana; and Smith & Nephew, a British company operating here from Memphis, Tenn.

Oh, the irony of this settlement being to end "a probe into kickbacks" by these companies. The best place to hide something really is right under someone's nose.

Let's see how much each actual victim receives in the end. If it's like consumers in many class-action "settlements," it'll be pennies -- and will be paid only after the victim signs a convoluted indemnity contracts promising never to get wise and sue the companies on their own.

Hat tip and discussion over at Blue Jersey. Flickr photo by Steve Lubetkin.

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