Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chris Christie Bridgegate aka Bullygate scandal continues to roar along - articles of note January 19 , 2014 .... .... Has Chris christie decided to go on the offensive ? Christie spokesman lashes out at Hoboken mayor and MSNBC in wake of aid allegations .......Meanwhile , residents of Sandy swamped Hoboken wants answers from chris christie concerning Mayor Zimmer's Sandy funding allegations ...... Bridgegate aka Bullygate dogs Christie on his Florida swing ....... CHRISTIE, LEGISLATURE ON COLLISION COURSE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL SHOWDOWN

( Chris Hedges opines as to why  Chris Christie simply cannot be allowed to become President ... look at those propping him up and consider who Chris Christie  is as a person , his traits and his personality flaws... )

Gaius Publius: `Wall Street & the Security Apparatus Want a Real SOB… Chris Christie`

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Yves here. I must confess I have not been paying much attention to the Chris Christie scandal, partly because it is on the periphery of this blog’s beat and in part because the reason it’s remained national news is that Christie was widely seen as a contender in the 2016 presidential election. Like Lambert, I find it painful to think much about 2016 now. And remember the seven dwarves of 1992? Viable candidates can emerge from crowded fields late in the game.
Even so, it’s been obvious that this story has gotten more media play than it seems to deserve and the Republicans are going to extreme lengths trying to preserve Christie as a national figure. Gaius’s story gives a plausible explanation as to why that’s taking place.
By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Cross posted from AmericaBlog
The Chris Christie story is becoming clearer and clearer.
I don’t mean the George Washington Bridge story, though thanks to people like Steve Kornacki and his MSNBC associates, that’s becoming clear as well.
I mean the story behind the story. Who’s sabotaging Chris Christie to force him out of office and off the national stage? And who’s supporting him in his bid for the power of the presidency?
About the latter — who’s supporting Christie’s White House ambitions — we have the invaluable Chris Hedges. Your bottom line — every mean SOB billionaire, from Wall Street to the Koch Bros, wants Christie in office. And every element of the “security and surveillance apparatus” — the NSA, the Pentagon, presumably the CIA- and FBI-aligned forces as well — also want him in power, at least as Hedges sees it.
I’ll give Hedges’ key point first, then a broader sampling of this interesting and readable article. Hedges, writing in Truthdig (my emphasis and paragraphing):
Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth.
He is gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals.
Wall Street and the security and surveillance apparatus want a real son of a bitch in power,someone with the moral compass of Al Capone, in order to ruthlessly silence and crush those of us who are working to overthrow the corporate state. They have had enough of what they perceive to be Barack Obama’s softness. Christie fits the profile and he is drooling for the opportunity.
Activists, Democratic and Republican rivals for power, liberals, reformers and environmentalists will, if Christie becomes president, see the vast forces of the security state surge into overdrive to stymie and reverse reform, gut our tepid financial and environmental regulations, further enrich the corporate elite who are pillaging the country, and savagely shut down all dissent. The corporate state’s repression, now on the brink of totalitarianism, would with the help of Christie, his corporate backers and his tea party loyalists become a full-blown corporate fascism.
Several things to note here. First, working from the bottom of the quote up, reread the list of those who will feel the club if Christie wins big power. The vulnerability of “Republican rivals” makes Republican opposition to Christie make perfect sense. For other Republicans, a Christie win won’t be a Republican win — it will be a Christie win. And only that. And New Jersey Republicans especially have first-hand knowledge of the kind of vindictive threat he poses.
Second, notice the comment about Christie having the “moral compass of Al Capone,” and how lack of conscience makes him a perfect candidate for the conscienceless national spook state (my phrasing), Wall Street billionaires, and the industrial and corporate billionaire-elites like David Koch. They would unite their fists in one man — Chris Christie — and he would act crushingly in their behalf, at least according to Hedges. This is a stark portrait indeed. Ancient kings were like this man; bad ancient kings.
Finally, in the very first paragraph in the quote, Hedges mentions something I didn’t know but could have inferred — that Christie is “gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals.” Bottomless hedonism? We’re way past fat jokes and into ancient kings territory again. Emperor Nero comes to mind. If true, this is a whole different beast, this Christie.
About That “Bottomless Hedonism”
In case you think that Hedges’ hedonism comment is just a guess, here’s a little more from the article:
The Romney campaign, which reluctantly agreed to Christie’s incessant demands for private jets, ungainly entourages and expensive hotel rooms in return for campaign appearances by the governor in behalf of the GOP nominee, decided against selecting him as running mate because, as the authors write, Romney’s vetters were “stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record.”
A 2010 U.S. Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in the federal job he held before he became governor, the book [“Double Down: Game Change 2012”] notes, called Christie “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and someone who offered “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at exclusive hotels such as the Four Seasons.
In addition, the inspector general’s report raised questions among Romney’s vetters about “Christie’s relationship with a top female deputy who accompanied him on many trips,” the book [“Double Down: Game Change 2012”] said.
I dare you to think Emperor Nero when reading these three quotes. Remember, Hedges was a first-rate mainstream reporter before he exited the mainstream. He’s still a first-rate reporter. Do you think this depiction is wrong?
Who Wants Christie in the White House?
I won’t quote too much more of the article — but you can see I think it’s a must-read. I will give you a list, however, gleaned from the article. These people are named by Hedges as backing Gov. Christie’s 2016 bid strongly and promising “massive financial backing”:
The Koch brothers
Stanley Druckenmiller
Kenneth C. Griffin
Daniel S. Loeb
Paul E. Singer
Paul Tudor Jones II
David Tepper, all hedge fund kings
Charles Schwab
Stephen A. Schwarzman
Mort Zuckerman
Richard Grasso (ex-NYSE)
Maurice “Hank” Greenberg (ex-AIG)
John J. Mack (ex-Morgan Stanley)
Jack Welch (ex-GE)
Kenneth Langone (Home Depot)
I’m sure the list doesn’t end there. Your take-away: Everyone with big money loves this big man. It seems none of the billionaires can resist what he offers. He’s a perfect front man for the people to whom people are things.
Wall Street, Revenge, Retribution & a Fawning Entourage
For more on Christie’s relationship with Wall Street, usually a Democratic Party source of funding, read the paragraph that starts “There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association”. As Hedges said at the start of the piece, they want him bad.
For more on Christie’s love of revenge and retribution, start reading at “Christie’s large public entourage always includes a videographer”. It’s an ugly couple of paragraphs. Really, governor? 600 YouTubes of Christie squeezing the smalls, uploaded by Team Christie itself?
On that last note, Hedges points us to a video hosted at TMZ of Christie getting in-your-face with a teacher-friendly heckler on a warm Sunday in Jersey. From the transcript:
Gov. Christie (R-NJ) was hangin’ with his family in Seaside Heights … and had just ordered an ice cream cone when a passerby fired off some snide comments about Christie’s policy on education.
Christie got PISSED — and while clutching his cone, shouted back at the guy, “You’re a real big shot … you’re a real big shot shootin’ your mouth off.”
The man shouted back, “Nah, just take care of the teachers!”
The comment only inflamed Christie … who aggressively marched towards the guy and warned, “Keep walkin’ away … really good … keep walkin’.”
Just a Chris Christie Sunday with the family.
Christie May be the Most Dangerous Man in Politics Today
I normally rail against the MSNBC evening hosts and their policy of “Eww Republicans, All The Time” pattern of reporting, especially when Obama’s evil deeds hang in the air like fruit. But in this case, if Hedges is right — if Christie indeed has “the moral compass of Al Capone” — they may be doing god’s work in helping take this man down.
If they succeed, I say, Amen to that. (And then want to ask, What made MSNBC’s owners decide not to join the Christie love feast? All of their friends are in it.)

( Chris Christie will face additional scrutiny if these allegations have legs... )

Sunday, January 19, 2014 1:45 PM

More Christie Allegations: Mayor of Flooded Hoboken Claims "Christie Held City Hostage"

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been damaged by numerous allegations involving political paybacks regarding lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that disrupted traffic for days.

That scandal was bad, but at least Christie has claimed no personal involvement. He cannot say the same thing now. Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, alleges Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage
 Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.

The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.

In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported.

“The bottom line is, it’s not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer,” she said Saturday on UP w/ Steve Kornacki. “… I know it’s very complicated for the public to really understand all of this, but I have a legal obligation to follow the law, to bring balanced development to Hoboken.”

“I’d be more than willing to testify under oath and – and answer any questions and provide any documents, take a lie detector test,” Zimmer said, referring to the Christie administration’s denials. “And, you know, my question back to them is, ‘Would all of you? Would all of you be willing do that same thing, to testify under oath, to take a lie detector test?’”

Zimmer’s interview comes on the heels of a scandal in which other members of Christie’s inner circle conspired to create huge traffic swells, possibly in an act of political retribution, on another New Jersey town on the outskirts of Manhattan.
It's possible to believe Christie had no knowledge of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Still, the person responsible was a part of his administration, and with considerable delay Christie finally offered an apology.

In this case, if the charges by Zimmer are true, Christie himself is personally involved. There is no other reasonable way to look at it.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Threat to hold back Hoboken Sandy aid was 'direct message' from Chris Christie, mayor says

Gov Christie and Mayor Dawn Zimmer tour Hoboken after Huricane Sandy
Gov Chris Christie and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer visits Red Cross workers at a relief center set up at the Elks Club during a tour Hoboken in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (John Munson/The Star-Ledger)
Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-LedgerBy Kelly Heyboer/ The Star-Ledger 
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on January 19, 2014 at 3:00 PM, updated January 19, 2014 at 4:00 PM

HOBOKEN — Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said she was delivering a “direct message” from Gov. Chris Christie when she told Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer to approve a real estate project if she wanted more Hurricane Sandy aid for her city, the mayor said today.
In an appearance on CNN, Zimmer expanded on her allegations that members of the Christie administration told her in May to push through a Hoboken redevelopment project if the flood-prone city wanted help getting federal disaster aid.
“She said . . . essentially you’ve got to move forward with the Rockefeller project, this project is really important to the governor,” Zimmer told CNN. “And she said that she had been with him on Friday night and this was a direct message from the governor.”
Christie’s office dismissed Zimmer’s allegations about her conversation with Guadagno.
“Mayor Zimmer's categorization about her conversation in Hoboken is categorically false,” said Colin Reed, a Christie spokesman.
Yesterday, Reed said Zimmer's allegations were politically motivated.

“It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political ax to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television,” Reed said in a statement Saturday.
In the 16-minute interview on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley,” Zimmer said she initially thought she would hurt Hoboken’s chances for additional Sandy funding if she went public with her conversation with Guadagno or a similar conversation she had with Richard Constable, Christie’s current commissioner of community affairs.
“I was really concerned that if I came forward, (and) no one believed me, that we would really be cut out of the Sandy funding. But as I watched the coverage with Bridgegate, you do see parallels and I just felt I had an obligation to come forward,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer’s allegations have been another blow to the Christie administration, which is continuing to deal with the widening controversy over September lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that caused massive traffic problems in Fort Lee.
In that case, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, was quoted in an email calling for “traffic problems” in the borough. Christie apologized for the lane closures earlier this month, but has repeatedly denied he knew anything about them beforehand or requested them as political payback against the Fort Lee mayor for failing to endorse the governor for re-election.
Christie is facing several investigations into the bridge incident, including a state Legislature probe that has already issued 20 subpoenas to members of the governor’s administration and others.
The new accusations from Zimmer involve an undeveloped, 19-block area in the north end of Hoboken. The mayor said she was pressured to push for the development of three blocks owned by the Rockefeller Group, a developer represented by Wolff & Samson, the law firm of Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a close Christie ally.
The Rockefeller Group said in a statement Saturday it had no knowledge of Zimmer’s claims. Wolff & Samson also released a statement categorically denying Zimmer’s allegations.
Christie, who is on a fundraising trip to Florida, has remained publicly silent on Zimmer’s allegations. The governor began the day with a fundraiser at an undisclosed location in Palm Beach for the Republican Governors Association, a national group he chairs.
Tonight, he is scheduled to meet with top Republican donors at a private event in North Palm Beach hosted by Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone.
As Christie headed to the closed-door events, his latest scandal was one of the topics of the Sunday morning talk shows.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani praised Christie’s handling of the George Washington Bridge lane closure controversy.
“He has given a text book case in how to handle it,” Giuliani said. “Stand up, answer the questions, hold people accountable and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Giuliani also called on Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat leading the state Assembly’s investigation into the bridge scandal, to step down as head of the committee.
“When you announce before you even investigate it you don’t believe the subject of the investigation or the person who is the ultimate focus of the investigation it would seem to me the assemblyman has an ethical obligation to step down, to recuse himself,” Giuliani said. “He is no longer an impartial arbiter of the facts. He has announced he doesn’t believe Gov. Christie.”
Assembly Democratic spokesman Tom Hester Jr. said Giuliani “quite simply has no idea what he’s talking about.”
Assembly Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously to establish the committee headed by Wisniewski to investigate the bridge lane closures.
“Uninformed critics would do well to share the healthy dose of skepticism about the GWB lane closures that has already led to two resignations from the Port Authority and the removal of two top members of Gov. Christie’s organization,” Hester said. “Chairman Wisniewski and the committee will of course continue this bipartisan work to find the truth, a process that is serving the public very well.”

Sandy relief funding spurs NJ protest

January 18, 2014 7:30PM ET
Occupy protesters plan to camp out at the New Jersey Statehouse as Gov. Chris Christie grapples with political scandals
New Jersey
Occupy Wall Street
Chris Christie

New Jersey Sandy storm Occupy protest

A protester carries a sign near the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.
Mel Evans/AP
Protesters in New Jersey who are upset with how the state is distributing relief funding forSuperstorm Sandy victims have taken their complaints to the capital city.
The Occupy Sandy New Jersey group arrived in Trenton, N.J., on Saturday morning and planned to camp out in an area across the street from the Statehouse. Group leaders said participants planned to stay there until Tuesday, when Gov. Chris Christie is due to be inaugurated for his second term.
About 20 people were on scene by early Saturday afternoon, and more were expected as the day progressed.
The group claims middle class and poor people have not received their fair share of funding. It also claims black and Latino applicants have been disproportionately rejected for resettlement and construction grants and the needs of southern New Jersey have been overlooked.
Their grievances are echoed in a New Jersey mayor's claims that Christie's administration withheld millions of dollars in Sandy recovery grants from her city because she refused to sign off on a politically connected development project.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told The Associated Press that Christie's lieutenant governor and a top community development official told her recovery funds would flow if the commercial development went forward.
Zimmer says Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno pulled her aside at a May event and told her "we are not going to be able to help you" unless the project moves forward.
Christie spokesman Colin Reed said the administration has been helping Hoboken secure assistance since Sandy struck, and that the governor and mayor have historically enjoyed a productive relationship.
Gov. Christie, who is rumored to be considering a 2016 presidential bid, is also embroiled in another scandal involving traffic jams which high-ranking aides in his administration apparently manufactured to settle a political score.
In what has been described as an apparent political payback scheme to possibly retaliate against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie's 2013 reelection, the governor's staff allegedly caused massive traffic jams last fall by closing local access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, one of the world's busiest bridges.
Christie apologized and fired his deputy chief of staff, and told reporters he had "no knowledge or involvement" in the matter. Still, with investigations moving ahead, the issue could follow him for some time and cause consternation for his financial backers.
Christie headlined a series of fundraising events to help Florida's governor, Rick Scott, and the state party, this weekend. The events, closed to reporters, give Christie his first chance since the scandal escalated to reassure big financial donors that he remains a viable presidential contender for 2016.
Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP consultant, said donors he has spoken with feel Christie's rising star was tainted by the controversies.
"The jury is definitely now out," he said. "He's gone from an A-plus to a B. He's not going to be the presidential nominee in waiting. We're in a watch-and-see phase."

Christie spokesman lashes out at Hoboken mayor and MSNBC in wake of aid allegations

Governor Christie press conference on GWB scandal 1-9-2014
Team Christie went back on the offensive today in response to allegations that top officials pressured the mayor of Hoboken into a development deal. (Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger)
David Giambusso/The Star-LedgerBy David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger 
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on January 18, 2014 at 7:37 PM, updated January 19, 2014 at 1:03 AM
Gov. Chris Christie's office lashed out today not only at Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer but the network that produced the interview in which she alleged the governor used Hurricane Sandy recovery money to push through a development project in the Hudson County city.
“MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him," Christie spokesman Colin Reed said after Zimmer told network host Steve Kornacki that she was threatened to approve a development project or risk losing out on Sandy recovery money.

"Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama Administration approves the next rounds of funding," Reed said.

Reed cited tweets issued by Zimmer in the wake of Sandy, indicating she was pleased with how Christie responded to Hoboken's dilema. The entire city was nearly submerged in water at the time.

"It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television,” Reed said.

Still, many of the tweets pre-date a May 2013 letter Zimmer sent to Christie saying she was "stunned" she would not be receiving hazard mitigation aid. Zimmer still tweeted that she was "very glad Christie Christie has been or Gov." even after she said she was rejected for the aid.

In an interview with The Star-Ledger, Zimmer said she was not surprised by the reaction and expected retribution but she stood by her allegations.

"My most important concern is making sure that Hoboken gets its fair share," she said.


Hoboken residents want answers after Mayor Zimmer's Sandy funding allegations

Ryan Hutchins/The Star-LedgerBy Ryan Hutchins/The Star-Ledger 
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on January 18, 2014 at 6:05 PM, updated January 19, 2014 at 12:25 AM
HOBOKEN — The anguish Hurricane Sandy inflicted on Hoboken is undeniable.
The Hudson River's banks spilled over and into the city from several sides. Some 80 percent of the Mile Square City was under water. The National Guard responded. The town was closed to outsiders. Many who remained spent days without power or water.
That’s what some here remembered today as Mayor Dawn Zimmer accused Gov. Chris Christie’s administration of denying the city storm aid because she would not support a major constructions project in one of the city’s few remaining undeveloped areas. Some in Hoboken said the accusation is down right unsettling.
“Hoboken got like $300,000 out of the funding,” said Steve Pilon, a 46-year-old web designer who lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of belongs in the flooding. “That’s like five bucks for each citizen of Hoboken, in a town where 80 percent of the town was under water and had to be evacuated. It’s clearly not sufficient funding. So I would say, in any case, there’s valid questions about why were all of these requests turned down.”
On MSNBC this morning, Zimmer told anchor Steve Kornacki the Christie administration pressured her to approve a development deal with the Rockefeller Group, which planned a 40-story building, saying the city would receive Sandy aid if she went ahead with the deal. Zimmer requested more than $100 million in flood mitigation funds, but received just $342,000.
The accusation – which included a claim that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno herself delivered the threat – comes as the Republican governor is embroiled in controversy over the closure of local access lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. His administration is being investigated by two legislative committees and the case is being reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie, called the allegations "categorically false."
Sandy aid figures tossed around Saturday varied widely between the Christie administration and Zimmer.
Following Sandy, New Jersey did receive approximately $450 million through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Program.
However, the state chose only to allocate $50 million of that funding statewide toward “resiliency projects” that would better protect communities from future storms, opting instead to heavily focus the funding on home buyouts and elevations.
No county received more than $10.25 million of the hazard mitigation funding and Hudson County received just $1.7 million. Though municipal disbursements were not released by the governor’s office, Zimmer said Hoboken received just $142,000 from the program.
The Christie administration said it has promised nearly $70 million in federal funding to the city of Hoboken, with more to come, though the state’s own Sandy fund tracker puts that figure at $14.2 million and includes millions given specifically to residents, not the city.
The Christie administration did not specify where this money was coming from or how much of it had been dispersed.
Pilon said he was glad the mayor was speaking out, even if it is many months after the aid was denied.
“Hopefully there’s ways to hold people accountable for stuff,” said Pilon, who added he and his wife are still recovering from the storm yesterday afternoon.“My sense is that, over time, more and more people will speak out and the dots will get connected and, hopefully, the right people will be held accountable for it.”
Peggy O’Brien, a labor union employee who’s lived in Hoboken for a decade, said she expects Christie is “going down in flames.” She said she was pleased Zimmer spoke out and said the bridge scandal likely gave her cover to make such a jarring accusation and actually be believed.
“I am impressed that Mayor Zimmer is taking such a politically risky move to come out against Gov. Christie for what seemed to be some pretty shocking allegations,” said O'Brien, a Democrat who voted for the mayor. “There seems to be momentum for a story like that being believed right now.”
Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo was more circumspect. He called Zimmer’s allegations troubling, because, if true, then city residents became unwitting pawns in a quid pro quo scheme instigated by the governor’s office. But he also raised questions as to why Zimmer would not have called attention to Guadagno’s alleged pressure any earlier.
“She’s claiming a criminal act,” he said. “Why did she not report it then?”
Russo, a councilman since 2003, said that while it’s possible Zimmer might have discussed the matter with her council allies, of which he said he is not one, all nine council members needed to be in the loop.

“We’ve been in the dark,” he said. “I have questions for her.”
But despite whatever “political differences” he has with Zimmer, he had no reason to disbelieve the mayor’s allegations, he said.
Still other Hoboken residents questioned the timing of Zimmer’s announcement, wondering if it was more about opportunity for her than anything else.
“I think it’s weird she waited nine months to say it,” Briana Hulet, 30, said of Zimmer’s allegations. “I think it’s convenient. I think it’s just odd that you would wait so long.”
Still, the five-year resident of Hoboken concedes that the accusations, in this rough-and-tumble world of Jersey politics, are likely true.
“If anybody is shocked they’re very na├»ve," Hulet said.
Abigail Vaskain, a Hoboken resident for three years, lost power for eight days after the hurricane. The 22-year-old also said the timing seemed “convenient,” and said she was “distrustful with government in general,” and “the pettiness that comes around.”
“It disappoints me anytime that you experience cronyism that affects the general public,” Vaskain said.
Ryan Timmons, 26, and Michael Lee, 23, have been Hoboken residents for five years and were trapped inside their building for two days after Sandy while waiting for the water to recede. Timmons said the allegations “seemed par for the course.” Lee said it may turn out to be just one example of political retribution that will be revealed in due time.
“It can only get worse as things unfold,” Lee said.
But some cautioned that the governor needs to be given a chance to address these claims. David Martinez, 41, said many things probably go on that the governor does not know about.
“I think it sounds a little unsettling, because they’re accusing him without letting the man explain himself,” Martinez said. “As soon as that happens, ‘all his chances to be the president are in jeopardy’ &mdasg; that’s the first thing they say, without knowing what’s going on.”
Martinez, though, said the storm was very painful and the accusations are stinging. He was out of state when the storm hit but said his aunt was without power for days and his employer’s shop was flooded.
“If something like that did happen, somebody needs to be held accountable for that. Even him,” Martinez said, referring to the governor.

How is Bridgegate playing out so far - a New Jersey perspective .......

Top 10 winners and losers from another week of Bridgegate: Subpoenas fly and new allegations surface

Darryl Isherwood/NJ.comBy Darryl Isherwood/ 
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on January 19, 2014 at 7:35 AM, updated January 19, 2014 at 8:41 AM
It was yet another wild week in New Jersey politics as the George Washington Bridge scandal showed no signs of abating.  The investigation into the lane diversions at the bridge ramped up with the issuance of 20  new subpoenas, while a new allegation of political bullying was leveled against the governor.  The scandal threatens to derail several careers, while making others.  No matter what the final tally, this one will be talked about for years to come.


Randy Mastro and Reid Schar

As the scandal surrounding the George Washington Bridge unfolds and Gov. Chris Christie's back is pushed more firmly against the wall, the resulting sides in the conflict each have hired their own attorneys.  The Christie administration has retained Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and lead attorney Randy Mastro, while the Assembly committee pushing the investigation has hired former prosecutor Reid Schar.  Schar is clearing $350 an hour and Christie's office has not yet released Mastro's fee, but either way, these white shoe lawyers are likely to earn a fortune as a result of Bridgegate.

John Wisniewski

The man who pushed the George Washington Bridge scandal onto the national stage continues to reap the political and public relations benefits from having exposed the debacle that is showing signs of at least damaging, if not destroying, Gov. Chris Christie's political aspirations.

Cory Booker

Whether a result of the damage the bridge scandal has done to the GOP brand in New Jersey, a desire on the part of potential candidates to wait for a gubernatorial run, or Booker's strength, Republicans have yet to field a candidate to challenge the freshman senator in November.  As of now, it looks like Booker is being given a free ride to re-election.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee has had her own controversies to deal with during her tenure, but the George Washington Bridge scandal has given Schultz and the DNC something they've never had: An opening with which to go after GOP presidential front-runner Chris Christie.  She's turned Christie's Florida fundraising swing into a circus and will no doubt continue to hammer Christie for as long as the bridge scandal lives.

Steve Fulop and Chris Bollwage

Both mayors have accused the governor of retaliating against them politically for slights, whether real or perceived.  The two men were joined yesterday by a third city mayor, Hoboken's Dawn Zimmer, who also accused the governor and his staff of retaliating against her for failing to fully support a redevelopment effort in her city.  Zimmer's accusations has set off a firestorm that some say could be worse than the bridge scandal that started the landslide of charges against the governor.


David Samson

The founding partner of Wolff Samson and the pillar of the state's political and legal communities received a subpoena this week to talk about his role in the bridge scandal. The former Attorney General, who once served on the Supreme Court's Ethics Committee, isn't used to being on the receiving end of questions regarding a scandal.  Emails produced by former Port Authority official David Wildstein first implicated Samson and outside of the governor, he seems to have the most to lose from the fallout.  Samson's firm was also part of Zimmer's narrative as they represent the developer of the Hoboken project at the heart of her allegation.

Chris Christie

In the category of stating the obvious, Christie continues to be the biggest loser as the bridge scandal dominates each new cycle.  Whether the scandal is evidence of abuse of power as critics claim or a trumped-up controversy pushed by Democrats and the media as the governor's supporters believe, there is no question it has hurt Christie's national credibility. HIs national ambitions may well survive, but he'll be facing criticism of this incident for the rest of his career in elective office.

Christie's Staff

A host of subpoenas were issued Friday and there is nary a staffer in Christie's inner circle who didn't get one. While for some the subpoena will be nothing more than a minor headache, for others, the subpoenas could result in a pink slip.  We likely won't know who is on the chopping block until February, but for now, anyone drawn into this mess isn't a happy camper.

Richard Constable

The Department of Community Affairs Commissioner was named by Zimmer as one of the administration officials who pressured her into supporting the redevelopment project in the Mile Square City.  His office has proclaimed Zimmer's allegation as "categorically false" but he's yet another Christie official drawn into the ever widening controversy.

Kim Guadagno

The quiet lieutenant governor, who has long stood in Christie's shadow, also was dragged into the fray by Zimmer when the Hoboken mayor accused her of threatening to withhold much-needed Hurricane Sandy relief money if Zimmer failed to support the redevelopment project championed by the governor and represented by Samson's firm.

National impact on Christie observed in florida this weekend as the sharks smell blood on the water , christie keeps a low profile and skittish GOP pols keep their distance......

Bridge scandal, Hoboken allegation dog Chris Christie during his Florida fundraising trip

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz holds a news conference at Guernsey Park in Orlando to criticize Gov. Chris Christie's handling of the George Washington Bridge/Fort Lee lane closure scandal, as well as his fundraising trip to Florida for Gov. Rick Scott. (Mike Roy/The Star-Ledger)
Salvador Rizzo/The Star-LedgerBy Salvador Rizzo/The Star-Ledger 
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on January 18, 2014 at 8:39 PM, updated January 19, 2014 at 12:06 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. — It was supposed to be Gov. Chris Christie’s comeback tour:

A weekend trip to Florida, where he would show the world he could still drum up top-dollar checks for Republican candidates across the country even as his administration faces a swirl of scandals, subpoenas and allegations of abuse of power.

But instead of highlighting his fundraising chops, Christie, in his new role as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, spent the day besieged by new claims of political retribution — and shuttling quietly around the Sunshine State as far as possible from the public eye.

There were stops at a Tuscan-style country club in Orlando (he took a back entrance) and a seaside mansion in Palm Beach owned by one of the richest businessmen in the state (the RGA refused to give a time or address.)
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a fellow Republican, declined to hold any public events with New Jersey’s celebrity governor, a rarity in the middle of a re-election campaign.

"If this continues, he clearly can’t perform the functions of the chair, which is to go in and put the spotlight on GOP gubernatorial candidates on the ballot in November," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. "If he’s going to go into a state to help … but then he becomes the issue and generates negative headlines, then he can’t serve as RGA chair, it’s obvious."

The governor had a former ally, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, to thank for the latest fusillade of criticism. In a 40-minute interview broadcast nationwide on MSNBC, Zimmer charged that top administration officials threatened to choke her city’s disaster-relief funding after Hurricane Sandy unless she approved a development project Christie wanted on the waterfront.

A spokesman for the governor, Colin Reed, returned fire later in the day. "It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political ax to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television," he said.

An RGA spokesman, Jon Thompson, said Christie would press on with his Florida itinerary today. "All the fundraising events are still on," he said.

In Orlando, Scott’s campaign received a $2.5 million donation from the Christie-led RGA yesterday, he said. The press was turned away by city police officers at the main entryway as donors filtered in driving Cadillacs, BMWs, Lexuses and a Rolls-Royce. Christie’s black SUVs arrived through a back entrance.

In his absence, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), was happy to address the crowds of reporters camped outside Christie’s events.


In an interview with The Star-Ledger, Wasserman Schultz blasted Christie and the administration officials, claiming they "threatened" Zimmer.

"It’s just another example of the pattern of bullying and intimidation and retribution that takes place if you don’t do what Chris Christie wants," she said. "My understanding was that 80 percent of Hoboken was underwater, that they desperately needed those recovery funds."

Criticism also came from anxious Republicans even before Christie landed in Florida.

"The guy, as a person, is horrific," Brian Ballard, a Republican lobbyist in Tallahassee and a top fundraiser for Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential race, told the Miami Herald.

"Christie probably didn’t know his staff was shutting down the George Washington Bridge for political paybacks or whatever. But the fact is, he had people around him who thought it was okay. And that speaks to his character," Ballard told the newspaper.
Sabato said Zimmer’s allegations are still unproven, but that "based on what we now know about Christie’s governorship and the people in it, the problem for Christie is this is, at least on the surface, believable."

If the explosive headlines continue, he said, "this could develop in a way that makes Christie an albatross around the necks of GOP candidates for governor rather than someone who contributes to their elections."

Patrick Murray, a political science professor at Monmouth University, said if Zimmer’s allegations crumble, Republicans are likely to rally around the New Jersey governor and give him renewed support.

"It's still 'he said, she said,'" Murray said. "As long as he is seen as a viable fundraiser, he’ll be okay. In fact, the canary in the coal mine in all this is if candidates start canceling their fundraising appearances. There’s no question he is still the top draw in the Republican Party in the country."

Today, Christie will get to gauge firsthand how the GOP donor class is responding to the drama in the Garden State.

He will be in the Palm Beach home of one of his major boosters, Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone. About 150 guests have been invited, he said, and curiosity about the bridge scandal is high. "I’ve got to believe one of the questions is: ‘Were you involved in this? Did you know anything about it?’" Langone told USA Today.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a fundraiser for the Democrats, said Christie’s Florida trip was all about "the old saying, ‘Don’t let them see you sweat.'"

But, he added: "I don’t think you can spin your way or PR your way out of this. … Every moment, he’s going to be confronted with another difficult situation. So the show is really, in my opinion, of no value other than to give him a reprieve."

Political Battle Royale looming between the Governor and the State Legislature ?


Wisniewski and Bramnick
State Assemblymen John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), on left, and Jon Bramnick (R-Union) conferring before Assembly vote on the special committee
Gov. Chris Christie and the Democratic Legislature appeared headed toward a constitutional showdown over the Bridgegate scandal yesterday, as Christie weighed his legal options and Republicans questioned the partisanship of an Assembly committee that issued 20 subpoenas to targets that included some of the highest-ranking members of Christie’s inner circle.
The unexpectedly large list of subpoenas issued yesterday by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Investigations, made it clear that he was aiming beyond fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and dismissed campaign guru Bill Stepien to target all of the top Christie aides named in previously subpoenaed documents released last week -- a list that stops just short of the governor himself.
The short-term disruption in the embattled governor’s office is likely to be significant, with current Chief of Staff Regina Egea, former Chief of Staff and Attorney-General-in-waiting Kevin O’Dowd, Press Secretary Michael Drewniak, and Communications Director Maria Comella all reportedly receiving subpoenas answerable in two weeks with public testimony under oath likely to follow in mid-February.
Christie’s best options yesterday seemed to be either to invoke some level of executive privilege to protect the inner workings of his governor’s office from public scrutiny or to argue that the public investigations by the legislative committees would interfere with a proper probe by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Such an investigation by the U.S. Attorney could take Bridgegate out of the public eye for months, and its closed-door inquiry would avert the damaging spectacle of a series of Christie aides following the lead of the Port Authority’s David Wildstein in taking the Fifth Amendment.
For Christie, still the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in an NBC/Marist University poll released Wednesday, the stakes are high. The governor, who dropped from just three points behind Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton to 13 points down in the wake of Bridgegate, has a dinner with major Republican donors in Florida Sunday hosted by Home Depot founder Ken Langone, who urged him to run for president in 2012. Christie, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will be raising money for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but a planned public event was cancelled after Bridgegate became national news last week.

Plotting a Legal Strategy

To develop its legal strategy, the Christie administration yesterday announced it was hiring the law firm of Randy Mastro, a New York lawyer who served as deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, one of Christie’s most vocal defenders in the Bridgegate scandal, to serve as outside counsel and effectively as the gatekeeper for the production of the thousands of documents that will be sought by the half-dozen investigations now underway.
Christie, who said last week he did not interview Kelly and Stepien because he did not want to be accused of interfering with ongoing investigations, announced yesterday that he is conducting his own “internal review to uncover the facts surrounding the lane closures in Fort Lee,” and that his administration would be “fully cooperating with the U.S. Attorney inquiry and other appropriate inquiries and requests for information.”
Christie’s press statement pointedly left out any specific commitment to cooperate with the special investigative committees that were formed by the Assembly and Senate yesterday. The statement used the same “appropriate inquiries” disclaimer that Christie used in his State of the State speech Tuesday, which aroused Democratic suspicions that the governor might be planning to stonewall the legislative committees.

No Comment on Cooperation

“Is this an ‘appropriate’ investigation?” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) asked. “We’ll have to wait to see,” he said, adding that he “couldn’t comment” on whether the governor would cooperate with the Wisniewski committee or the Senate panel chaired by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).
“My concern is that if you’re going to act like a prosecutor, you run the risk of exposing innocent people to public scrutiny,” Bramnick said of Wisniewski. “You’re talking about taking private communications that were made in the expectation of privacy and subjecting them to public scrutiny. It’s not obstructionism, it’s a legitimate institutional concern for people in government that their privacy should be respected.”
Republicans in both the Senate and Assembly yesterday rallied around Christie, questioning the partisan motives of Democratic leaders. Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth) demanded assurance that the Wisniewski committee “will not be a Coliseum that exists solely for the purpose of throwing as many people as possible to the lions.”
Wisniewski dismissed the partisan criticism and said he would expect the governor to act in good faith unless he proves otherwise. “We have no reason to believe the governor won’t cooperate. We are certainly an ‘appropriate’ investigation,” he insisted. Wisniewski brought in his own heavy hitter as special counsel to the committee, hiring Reid Schar, the former assistant U.S. Attorney who successfully prosecuted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Wisniewski’s committee met behind closed doors in executive session yesterday before agreeing to issue subpoenas to 17 individuals and three organizations. While Handlin and the other three Republicans on the committee tried unsuccessfully to prevent Wisniewski from being given the unilateral power to issue subpoenas, Wisniewski said all four Republicans approved the subpoenas being issued.
While Wisniewski declined to name the individuals and groups receiving the subpoenas because he did not want them to find out about it on TV or from other publications, his acknowledgement that subpoenas were going to those who received emails or texts about the George Washington Bridge lane closures or their aftermath left little mystery about most of the names on the subpoena list.
Wisniewski had already said he planned to start with Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who evidently ran a political operation within the governor’s office that included the incriminating August 13 email to Wildstein that it was “Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and Stepien, Kelly’s predecessor and political mentor who had served as campaign manager for Christie’s winning 2009 and 2013 races. Christie last week fired Kelly and severed all ties with Stepien, including his nomination as state Republican chairman and his consulting contract with the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads.

Other top targets named in the emails and other documents subpoenaed last month from Wildstein and Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, both of whom resigned in December, included:

  • Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary and close aide since Christie became U.S. Attorney in 2001, who approved the Port Authority’s September 12 press release blaming the four days of lane closures on an apparently phantom traffic study, planned how to stonewall subsequent media inquiries, and met with his friend Wildstein right before his resignation.
  • Egea, the director of the Governor’s Authorities Unit whom Baroni sent Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye’s September 13 memo reversing the lane closures, which Foye said not only delayed emergency vehicles, but also “violates Federal Law and the laws of both States." It is unclear whether or how Egea, whom Christie last month appointed as his Chief of Staff, traditionally the second-most-powerful post in the governor’s office, followed up on the memo.
  • Port Authority Chairman David Samson, who worked with Baroni to attempt to squelch Foye’s public disclosure of the secret lane closures.
  • Charles McKenna, the governor’s former chief counsel who carefully watched Baroni’s testimony before Wisniewski’s Assembly Transportation Committee in late November and reported that Baroni did “great.”
  • Comella, Christie’s communications director and Drewniak’s boss, who worked with Stepien on Giuliani’s failed presidential campaign in 2008 before latching onto Christie.
The subpoenas presumably would have included O’Dowd, Kelly’s direct boss as chief of staff, whose nomination by Christie to become state Attorney General has been stalled in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal. Democrats will want to know what he knew about Kelly’s activities before allowing his nomination to go to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Matt Mowers, the regional director for the Christie campaign whose responsibility included Bergen County and who was the campaign staffer who reportedly approached Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to ask for his endorsement before the bridge closings, also received a subpoena, according to a release issued by the New Hampshire Republican Party. Mowers was named executive director of the New Hampshire GOP following Christie’s reelection in what was widely seen as a move by Christie to put a trusted aide in a key position in an important 2016 presidential primary state.
The three organizations that received subpoenas are most likely the Governor’s Office, the Port Authority, which has previously been subpoenaed, and the Christie campaign, where both Stepien and Mowers worked at the time of the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

‘Zero Evidence’

The wave of subpoenas last night overshadowed yesterday’s pronouncement in Washington by U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) that his U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation had found “zero evidence” in documents supplied by the Port Authority to support the notion that the George Washington Bridge lanes were closed for a legitimate traffic study. “It is unconscionable that anyone would block commercial traffic and risk the safety of thousands on our interstate highway system in this way,” Rockefeller declared.
The issuance of the Assembly subpoenas also took away some of the luster from the announcement by Weinberg, the Senate majority leader whose Bergen County district includes Fort Lee, that Kelly, Egea, and Stepien would be the first three recipients of subpoenas to be issued by her Senate Select Committee on Investigations.
Republicans in both houses questioned the need and the extra financial cost of the Assembly and Senate appointing two separate investigative committees, a decision that Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) blamed on the unwillingness of Assembly Democratic leaders to agree to form a single joint committee.
“Leave it to Democrats to foul up what should be an easy slam dunk by having to create two committees!” one Democrat fumed privately.
Wisniewski said yesterday that the Assembly Select Committee on Investigation is “on a much faster track than the newly formed Senate committee could ever be” because it is a continuation of the Assembly Transportation Committee investigation whose subpoena powers led to the cache of documents that included the email tracing the lane closures to Kelly.
Indeed, Wisniewski was ready to present his new committee with 20 fully prepared subpoenas yesterday afternoon based specifically on the thousands of pages of documents produced by Wildstein, Baroni, and other Port Authority officials in response to the Assembly Transportation Committee’s subpoenas.
Sweeney appointed the seven members of Weinberg’s committee yesterday, but the panel did not meet, and whether it would issue separate subpoenas to Kelly, Stepien, and Egea now that the Wisniewski committee has already done so is unclear. Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex), a close Christie ally whom the governor unsuccessfully tried to have replace Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean (R-Union), will be a fierce advocate for Christie’s interests on the panel.
Wisniewski and Weinberg both held out the possibility that the Assembly and Senate committees would find ways to work together in the future and avoid duplicating efforts, with Wisniewski suggesting that the committees might meet jointly to hear from subpoenaed witnesses.
While Republicans suggested during the Assembly floor debate that the Wisniewski committee should be given a 90-day deadline to complete its investigation, Wisniewski said setting a deadline of any sort would be foolish.

“We know a number of people that have been discussed have retained counsel. We could have people fight us on these subpoenas and it could take longer,” Wisniewski noted, adding that “it’s entirely possible we could get to the end of our two-year subpoena power and still not have all the answers.”
Republicans asked tough questions during both the Senate and Assembly floor debates yesterday, with Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) even asking why the Senate Special Committee on Investigations did not expand its aegis to include other past scandals, such as former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s appointment of his former lover, Golan Cipel, as head of Homeland Security.
But in the end, Republicans voted unanimously with the Democrats for the resolutions creating the investigative panels, which passed the Senate 33-0 and the Assembly 75-0, a tacit recognition that they did not want to be on record voting against the creation of an investigative committee in case there proves to be more to the scandal than is currently known.
Similarly, while the GOP members of Wisniewski’s committee, led by Handlin and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), argued vigorously against the resolution giving Wisniewski the sole authority to issue subpoenas and control over the release of subpoenaed documents within the committee, the four Republicans later voted behind closed doors to approve all 20 of the subpoenas issued.
“Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of this thing in case there’s something there,” one Statehouse observer commented. “Everybody remembers what happens to those who stayed on the wrong side for too long in Watergate.”