A federal prosecutor in the office of then-U.S. Attorney and current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) approved an investigation of the late Rep. John Adler (D-NJ) for public corruption in 2007 when Adler was still a state senator — but later closed the case for lack of evidence.
Adler’s heavily redacted FBI file, which TPM obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, indicates that a cooperating witness approached the FBI’s Philadelphia division on June 20, 2007 about the awarding of a municipal code inspection contract. The witness apparently thought that then-state senator Adler’s support for a 2005 law that placed inspection contracts under “local public contract law” was corrupt.
Adler ran for Congress in 2008 and was elected, taking office in January 2009. The FBI closed the case for lack of evidence just a week before Adler was sworn in to the House of Representatives, the records show.
There were no public reports about the probe at the time and no indication that Adler was ever aware he was under investigation. A person close to Adler told TPM that they did not believe Adler was aware of the investigation and suggested the cooperating witness could have had a bone to pick with Adler.
The law Adler had sponsored changed the way in which a third-party inspection agency reported to municipal construction officials, according to the FBI file. The FBI file noted that Adler received campaign contributions to his state Senate campaign of $1,500 from EIC Inspection Agency Company and $1,000 from two other municipal inspection companies.
An unnamed deputy assistant U.S. Attorney in Christie’s office approved an investigation into Adler on Aug. 20, 2007, and agreed to allow FBI agents to have the cooperating witness record conversations with Adler.
The FBI file includes a transcript of a conversation the cooperating witness had with Adler at an unspecified date. Because the FBI redacted what the cooperating witness said, it is difficult to determine the precise nature of the discussion.
It does appear that whatever the cooperating witness was trying to talk about, Adler didn’t want to discuss it.
“I don’t want to know, I don’t care, enough said,” he allegedly said at one point. “Really. Safety first,” he continued. “I think the idea when I say ‘okay enough’… I exhausted that topic.”
“Believe me there is plenty to be mad at I never seen it [sic],” Adler said, according to a FBI transcript. “I like people and I’m not mad and I have a problem I say that I’m upset about the situation or there is nothing [sic].”
An FBI agent recommended that the case be closed “because the conversation between the [cooperating witness] and Adler provided no additional evidence and because the acts are out of statute,” apparently a reference to the statute of limitations having expired.
The investigation into Adler seems to have sat idle for a year and a half before it was closed out just a week before he took office in January 2009, after Christie had left his position.
Adler, who was beat by Republican Rep. John Runyan in 2010 after one term in office, died in April at the age of 51 after undergoing emergency heart surgery and contracting an infection.
[Ed. note: this story has been updated.]