Chris Christie tell the truth - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Chris Christie tell the truth

What are the reasons for the George Washington Bridge lane closings and the purported misappropriation of Hurricane Sandy relief funds? As the scandal plagued administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie beats back these accusations, the lingering question is, “Why?”

The prevailing theory for the lane closings is the Mayor of Fort Lee didn’t endorse Gov. Christie for re-election. But, as the New Jersey Star-Ledger opined, “we didn’t know his [Christie’s} crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor.”

That kind of craziness makes no sense over endorsements.

the-new-york-posts-chris-christie-cover-is-solidOf denying funds to the city of Hobeken, the Star-Ledger continued, “We didn’t know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn’t know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.”

Over in Belleville, another New Jersey newspaper headlined about an $18 million senior complex, “Christie used Sandy funds for senior complex in town where mayor endorsed him.”

Again, that level of craziness seems so much for so little. It’s plain weird.

In the disjointed chain of scandals over a governor obsessed about an election and a Presidential run, punishment for denying endorsements doesn’t hold water. Maybe we can get a better perspective on this trend if we rewind the clock several years earlier to 2009, when Chris Christie had just become Governor of New Jersey after a stint as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Remember, he got the D.A. job as a political reward for raising $500,000 early for George W. Bush’s presidential bid. We might remember that as newly elected Governor, Chris Christie abruptly cancelled the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project.

Chris Christie’s cancellation was met with stunning disbelief. Plans for the project was designed so that the new tunnels were mostly paid for by the Federal Government. New Jersey and the Port Authority had to chip in a mere $1.4 billion of the $8.7 billion at most. When Christie initially cancelled the project, the Federal Government pledged and additional $380 million dollars to sway Christie, but even that didn’t persuade Christie to change his mind.

chris-christie-is-on-the-cover-of-time-as-the-master-of-disasterIt’s odd, especially when one knows the stakes.

Theorists speculated on many reasons why he would do something so shameful and senseless that would endanger the lives of so many people. The Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, flew from Washington, DC to meet personally with Chris Christie to inform him that the ARC Project is a matter of National Security and that it must be completed. Still, Chris Christie didn’t budge.

Back then, speculation wasn’t over endorsements, but that Chris Christie was making a name for himself on the national stage. True, the cancellation did endear him to the conservative press corps as tough on budgets and spending, even though the cancellation cost New Jersey $100 million dollars penalty from the federal government and thousands of jobs.

Again, the theory never made much sense.

Now, the Port Authority’s reputation is at stake with the present scandals. Although the PA is evenly split between New Jersey and New York, Executive Director of the Post Authority Patrick Foye, was appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. During the fourth day of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, Foye forcefully demanded the lanes be re-opened. My source at the Port Authority expressed horror at the gossip and rumors revolving around the Port Authority and he insists this is not how the Port Authority behaves. In that spirit, Patrick Foye angrily wrote, “I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for; I intend to learn how PA process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say nothing of the credibility of this agency.” Not only did he believe the decision to close the lanes “violates Federal Law and the laws of both States,” it violated the pristine integrity of the Port Authority!

George Washington Bridge looking from Manhattan to New Jersey. Early morning, spring 2007. (Wikipedia)

George Washington Bridge looking from Manhattan to New Jersey. Early morning, spring 2007. (Wikipedia)

I speculated whether perhaps Christie’s cancellation of the ARC was not about the optics of conservative politics, but that Christie couldn’t get a personal kickback on the project. Without missing a beat, my source replied, “Absolutely!” He continued that the PA will not bend or succumb to bribery or extortion, and they had no choice but to cancel the project if there had been any pressure.

Fast forward to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

What if allocation of the relief funds was not about endorsements or politics, but simply simple money? We know a favored senior center in Belleville, NJ received substantial storm relief money and that Belleville suffered little storm damage, whereas Hoboken, which was 80 percent under water, received less than a million dollars in Sandy relief funds. Speculation is that Christie used Sandy money as political slush fund. Perhaps he did or he didn’t. Maybe he worked out a deal with the contractor to slip some money back to him.

The appointment of David Wildstein to the Port Authority appears to be only about money. He was paid $150,000 annually for a job that didn’t exist before he joined the PA and the job was eliminated immediately after his departure.

If Chris Christie’s acolytes were receiving such nice financial rewards, wouldn’t it make sense the boss himself would expect a piece of that pie? A favorite saying of grandfather was, “If someone tells you it’s not about the money, it’s about the money!”

Going back to the bridge scandal, Steve Kornacki reported on the billion-dollar development, known in Fort Lee as Redevelopment Area 5, at the center of ‘Bridgegate’. Perhaps the bridge tie-up was about this development was not about an endorsement. He wrote that “when the lanes were closed, financing had not yet been finalized for the redevelopment of the second half of land – a plan to build a mix of commercial, residential and parking facilities. Speedy access to the George Washington Bridge – and to those access lanes in particular – is what made the land particularly valuable, both to developers and potential tenants.”

Of the lanes, Chris Christie denied any connection to the development of the scandal: “The fact is I didn’t even know Fort Lee got three dedicated lanes until all of this stuff happened,” he said. “And I think we should review that entire policy, because I don’t know why Fort Lee needs three dedicated lanes, to tell you the truth, and I’ve told Chairman [David] Samson this, that we should look at this policy. Because I don’t know why one town gets three lanes. One lane, maybe. Three lanes, for one town? I don’t quite get it.”

The Governor doth protest too much, methinks.


About the author

Douglas Christian

Douglas Christian is a multimedia Capitol Hill reporter. He has covered the 2016 Democratic and Republican conventions as a photographer and has produced numerous audio and video reports for Talk Media News. He has written scores of articles and op-ed pieces for the Baltimore Post Examiner, touching on politics to the arts and to hi-tech. Douglas has worked as a photographer for decades. He has produced a few books on Oriental rugs; one was on Armenian Oriental rugs and the other was published by Rizzoli and co-authored by his uncle entitled, ‘Oriental Rugs of the Silk Route’. Douglas attended the Putney School in Vermont, a tiny progressive school in Vermont, where he became enthralled with photography and rebuilt a 4x5 camera. Later during college, he attended the Ansel Adams Workshop at Yosemite, where he determined to pursue photography. He transferred to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and received a BFA from Tufts. He has photographed an array of people including politicos such as William F. Buckley, Jr., George McGovern, Edward Teller and Cesar Chavez. His photography URL is www.photographystudio.com. His twitter feed is @xiwix. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. Contact the author.
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