Bail for Pru Lobbyist Puts N.J. Governor in a Political Fix

March 9, 2006

In his first political firestorm since taking office in January, Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Wednesday that he provided $5,000 in bail money to an insurance lobbyist accused of stalking a state assemblyman.

“I reacted as a human being responding to someone in need,” the multimillionaire Democrat said. “However, in light of my position as governor, I realize this was a mistake.”

Karen Golding, a government relations manager for insurance giant Prudential Financial, is accused of breaking into the government-issued car of Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, a Democrat, and of writing threatening letters and making threatening calls to Cryan and others. Authorities have not discussed a motive.

Corzine said Golding, 36, requested money after her Feb. 6 arrest and he complied because she worked for his 2000 Senate campaign and he remains friendly with her family. He said he did not ask questions about her situation beyond making sure Golding was not a danger to herself or others. He characterized the money as a loan but did not say when it would be repaid.

The bail payment, first reported Wednesday by The Star-Ledger of Newark, drew heated criticism from Republicans.

“Jon Corzine’s payment of bail money for Karen Golding doesn’t just reek of bad judgment and conflicts of interest but raises the specter that Gov. Corzine’s actions were intended to prevent something more damaging from coming to light. Why else would a sitting governor bail out a lobbyist,” said Tom Wilson, chairman of the Republican State Committee.

Cryan, 44, the newly elected chairman of the Democratic State Committee, issued a statement Wednesday calling the situation “disturbing” and saying it had “an intrusive and disruptive impact on the lives of a number of people for a lengthy period of time.”

Golding could not be reached for comment Wednesday and her lawyer, Christopher Patella, did not immediately return a call. She was scheduled to make a preliminary court appearance March 17 to answer charges of stalking and burglary, and could get jail time if convicted.

Golding has been “placed on paid leave of absence” pending resolution of the charges, said Prudential spokesman Robert De Fillippo.

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