It is getting increasingly difficult to keep track of Governor Chris Christie’s numerous scandals. But in order to simplify the information they can be broken into three different groups – improper and likely illegal lane closures on the George Washington Bridge or “Bridgegate”, playing politics with Sandy aid, and interference in a corruption case in Hunterdon County.
As far as Bridgegate goes there has been more information on how political Christie’s office is. Bill Stepien, whom Christie publicly disassociated with in his marathon press conference on Bridgegate, is reported to have had major influence within Christie’s government office. That puts the scandal much closer to Christie as Stepien was Bridget Kelly’s boss..
Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events….
Although he had moved over to manage Mr. Christie’s re-election campaign, Mr. Stepien was viewed as the de facto head of the State House political operation, and the person to whom Ms. Kelly reported. One Christie ally recalled that Mr. Stepien was “still being included on governmental emails” even after he left the administration.
This offers a tie in to the second scandal – the use of Sandy aid. While the subpoenaed documents from the New Jersey legislature on Bridgegate are due back next Monday, February 3rd, stories of Team Christie rewarding their “friends” have already surfaced. One of their friends in the city of Bellville received Sandy money for a major development. The problem? The project was completely unrelated to Superstorm Sandy.
Two weeks after Christie arrived at Bellville to announce the city would be getting $6 million from Sandy money for senior housing complex the Democratic mayor endorsed Christie for re-election.
Which brings us to what happened to those who did not play ball with Team Christie, the “enemies” such as Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Zimmer alleges Christie pressured her to support a development project backed by David Samson of the Port Authority’s law firm and tied that support to the city of Hoboken receiving much needed aid for Sandy.
New evidence published by the New York Times shows a high degree of interest and pressure being exerted by Team Christie on Mayor Zimmer to approve a plan by the Rockefeller Group who was represented by Wolf Samson the law firm of Port Authority Chairman David Samson.
But according to newly obtained emails sent among the participants, the first topic of discussion on the agenda was “review of concepts for flood control measures at Rockefeller property,” a reference to a billion-dollar office complex proposed at the north end of town. The developer, the Rockefeller Group, which had long been trying to gain approval from officials, sent two executives, two lobbyists and an engineer to the meeting…
The next day, the mayor has said, she received a call telling her that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno would visit Hoboken the following Monday. Ms. Zimmer, a Democrat, has alleged that during that visit, while in the parking lot of a Shop-Rite supermarket, Ms. Guadagno, like the governor a Republican, told her that the Rockefeller project was important to Mr. Christie and that the mayor needed to “move forward” with it if she wanted Hoboken to receive the flood protection money being distributed in the wake of the hurricane.
Questions remain as to whether there was an explicit quid pro quo – which would be illegal. In a statement LTG Guadagno said she never made any such promise. The US Attorney is investigating Zimmer’s allegation.
And finally, there is the case of Governor Chris Christie’s office interfering in a corruption investigation of a Christie ally. Deborah Trout, a sheriff in Hunterdon County New Jersey, was under investigation by the county prosecutor’s office for corruption when the Christie Administration allegedly intervened and sabotaged the case.
Trout was a major Christie supporter and her undersheriff is alleged to have said the whole case would be thrown out by Christie. Amazingly, he was right.
When the charges became public, the indicted undersheriff, Michael Russo, shrugged it off. Governor Christie, he assured an aide, would “have this whole thing thrown out,” according to The Hunterdon County Democrat. That sounded like bluster. Then the state killed the case.
On the day the indictment was unsealed, the state attorney general, a Christie appointee, took over the Hunterdon prosecutor’s office. Within a few months, three of its most respected veterans lost their jobs there, including the one who led the case.
Now a civil suit by one of the fired prosecutors is advancing through the system and might cause more embarrassment for the Christie Administration, if not worse.
So at least three separate scandals – and subsequent proceedings – are now occurring in the State of New Jersey related to the conduct of Governor Chris Christie. And what is the governor doing? Preparing to go on a nation-wide tour as head of the Republican Governors Association to raise money for the party.