The simple McGreevey Affair

Put your lover on the state payroll.
Any questions?

I’m puzzled by the McGreevey business. Not by what happened, which seems pretty straightforward, but by why other people seem to be puzzled, and are spinning out elaborate theories to explain the Governor’s planned resignation.

The outline seems simple enough. McGreevey had an extramarital affair, and his lover was male. That’s embarrassing: the adultery for good reasons, the fact that the extracurricular relationship was same-sex for bad reasons. If that’s all that were involved, McGreevey’s posturing as a martyr to anti-gay prejudice might be half true, or even two-thirds true.

But in fact he had given his boyfriend a six-figure state job, and one supposedly connected with security against terrorism. Where the Gubernatorial generative organ was getting to in private was arguably none of the public’s business, but putting your pecker on the payroll is always a bad idea. (That’s true whether it’s a state job or favors for the clients of an attractive and complaisant lobbyist, a la Speaker Livingston.)

The affair, then, boils down to corruption: McGreevey paid for his sexual encounters with public money. That’s a no-no, and he properly decided to resign. (That he decided to resign after the deadline for a special election is odd, but not obviously improper. The voters of New Jersey elected a Democrat to serve as their Governor for four years, and I don’t see it as a violation of the principles of self-government that they have a Democrat as their Governor for four years, rather than having another vote this fall.)

Since McGreevey is not only a Democrat but reportedly a pretty damned good governor, I’m sorry that it came out this way, but there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for the facts, or any other proper response than a resignation.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: