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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript: Minimum Wages and Low Income Assistance


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Let`s go to Senator Gordon. This is strange. You got -- according to word we`re getting in our reporting, you got a very clear declaration from the administration in Trenton saying they`re not going to let staff people testify before your committee. And now we`re hearing from the spokesman for the governor, Oh, no, there is no such policy.How do we put that together?

ROBERT GORDON (D), NEW JERSEY STATE SENATOR: Well, Chris, I don`t know about a policy. I was told clearly through my staff that no one from the governor`s office would be available to testify on the Sandy restoration program, which we were investigating today. I should say we were told --

MATTHEWS: Well, but that article --

GORDON: -- that a cabinet member would be available, but --


GORDON: -- no one from the governor`s office, particularly the person we wanted, who is the czar of the Sandy recovery program.

MATTHEWS: Well, according to the article that came out today in NJ Spotlight, it says the Christie administration policy is that no members of the governor`s office are allowed to appear. Was that what they told you, they had a --

GORDON: I wasn`t --

MATTHEWS: -- your staff people? Did the administration --

GORDON: I didn`t hear the word policy. I was just told no one would be permitted from the governor`s office to testify. I can tell you --

MATTHEWS: Permitted, OK.

GORDON: -- that in the Corzine administration, members of the governor`s office did testify before legislative committees.

MATTHEWS: So there`s no precedent for this kind of executive privilege, if
you will, denying your -- I mean, you`re the oversight body in any
government. You`re the legislature. You`re supposed to do oversight.
That`s how democracy works.

GORDON: Right.

MATTHEWS: How can it work if the legislators who are elected by the people can`t oversee the workings of the executive branch, which is the way our governments perform in this republic? And all this --

GORDON: This is all about checks and balances.


GORDON: We`re exercising our constitutional obligation to provide oversight over the executive branch, which in the case of the Sandy recovery money for the people who`ve experienced losses to their homes, this program appears to be a major screw-up.


MATTHEWS: Well, let me just go to real political reality here. Senator,
we`ve had all day with this report in hand. The Christie people know it`s been in hand. You know it`s been in hand, this statement by NJ Spotlight that they`re not going to let any staff people testify from the governor`s office before your legislative committee, which is looking into Sandy money and things like that.

If that`s been sitting out there all day today, from what I understand, and not once has anybody apparently called your office and said, No, no that`s not true, we`re going to let our people testify. Has anybody called you and said, There`s no policy stopping us from doing this? We`re going to let you have our witnesses come out of the governor`s office. Heard that today?

GORDON: I have not heard that today. If there --

MATTHEWS: Well, doesn`t that tell you something?

GORDON: If there is no such policy and if their staff can testify, we would welcome hearing from Mark Ferzan to learn about how this recovery program failed to provide funding to the people who deserved the money.

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you find out? When are you going to find out, Senator, whether you can get witnesses coming from the governor`s office, and whether there`s really an executive privilege being claimed here? When does the clock run out? I mean, you found out this morning they`re not going to do it. We all found out. You knew it -- when did you get the word through your staff that they were not going to give you any witnesses from their office, from the governor`s office?

GORDON: Well, the hearing was at 10:00 o`clock this morning. I heard late yesterday afternoon that no one from the governor`s office would be coming. We did hear that the commissioner of community affairs would make himself available at a date that worked for him. He`s a -- he had a tough schedule today. And I spoke with him, and we are going to work out the scheduling so that he can testify. And I would say that he probably knows more about this problem than the folks in the governor`s office.

MATTHEWS: Bob Ingle --

GORDON: So I`m confident that we`re going to get the information that we need.

MATTHEWS: But you`re not going to get it from the governor`s staff people.

GORDON: Probably not, not unless we --


GORDON: -- decide to exercise additional powers.


MATTHEWS: How do we find out, Senator Gordon, how much veracity -- I sensed that she was telling the truth, but I`m not a lie detector. I watched the mayor of Hoboken, Ms. Zimmer, Dawn Zimmer. She seemed to be very fluent on what went on between her and Guadagno, the lieutenant governor, about them holding her up and saying, If you don`t support this real estate deal on the waterfront, you`re not getting any help from us on funding.

You`re investigating Sandy funding. Is this something you`d like to know, whether it was a strong-arm tactic used down there in Hoboken by the lieutenant governor on behalf of the governor?

GORDON: Chris, you know, I have seen no evidence of any kind of strong-arm
tactics or politics. You know, I think this was just --

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think the mayor was saying?

GORDON: -- managerial incompetence.

MATTHEWS: No. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The charge for the mayor is she was called (ph) on a parking lot at ShopRite and told on the parking lot, It shouldn`t be this way, but the governor wants you to know that he is saying if you don`t support this real estate deal, forget the money.

You`re not getting it.

That`s not about managerial incompetence. That`s a charge, to me, of extortion.
What do you take it as? It`s not managerial incompetence, it`s
GORDON: No, no, I was referring --


GORDON: -- the situation with the Sandy recovery money that we`re investigating, which is --

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, what do you think? You`re looking at the money end of this thing. Are you curious what happened down in Hoboken that afternoon in that parking lot, or not? Aren`t you curious about that?

GORDON: You know, I think every New Jerseyian is interested in knowing what happened. I mean, no one would approve of strong-arm tactics like that. We just want to rebuild our towns and cities.

MATTHEWS: Is this the behavior you would expect of Christie, or not?

GORDON: Well, this is an administration that plays -- has been known to play hardball. I`ve had some personal experiences with it myself.

MATTHEWS: Anything like this, where they say --


MATTHEWS: -- you don`t play ball with us on this, you`re not going to get
something you would normally get? Anything like that?

GORDON: Well, you know, Chris, you know, I`m not sure how much we would get done if elected officials did not use the levers of power. Lyndon Johnson wouldn`t have gotten the Civil Rights Act through Congress unless he threatened some Southern senators with withholding federal money.

But when you do things like shut down lanes on a bridge that put people at risk, that`s something totally different, and you know, you`ve crossed the line with that.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about going to a mayor and saying, If you don`t back my buddies and all the people that used to work for me are now lawyers for this operation, this Rockefeller Institute (sic) deal -- if you don`t back this real estate deal, which is a privately funded money-making operation - - if you don`t do this, because I want it done because of my pals, you`re not going to get the money you normally should get from the government.

Is that to you a strong-arm or simply HARDBALL? Is that fair game?

INGLE: That is strong-arm. I mean, I was a mayor. And if someone had threatened me with that, I would have told them to go jump in the Passaic River.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what I would think would be a nice thing to do. Thank you, Robert Gordon, for coming on the show today.

GORDON: Thank you.


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