Does “Hudson Lights” Shine Light on Christie Scandal?

 

The key to the Chris Christie lane closure scandal may revolve around — surprise, surprise — money, not votes.

A billion-dollar commercial and residential project called Harbor Lights is supposed to be built on land near the George Washington Bridge, with quick and easy access to New York via those three lanes from Fort Lee.  Of course, if access is cut back, the project loses it appeal and becomes much less valuable.  At the time when the lane closures were ordered last August, the designs and zoning had been done for the project.  You know what hadn’t been done? The financing.  So anything that scared off investors — like three lanes down to one and people sitting in hours of traffic — would threaten whether Harbor Lights would actually see the light of day.

Talking Points Memo is doing some excellent reporting on this, including a piece by Brian Murphy (who used to work for fired Port Authority guy David Wildstein), expanding on what Murphy said on Steve Kornacki’s show on MSNBC.   Kornacki also once worked for Wildstein.  Both men know Jersey politics intimately. From Murphy’s story:

“We now know that a major redevelopment project, one that depends on Port Authority assets and relationships, was put in jeopardy at a vulnerable financial moment, and in a way that put the viability of the entire project at risk.

“But we still don’t know why. This batch of subpoenaed documents isn’t going to tell us, and the people who know – who really know – either aren’t talking or haven’t yet been questioned.”

There’s so much more to come out, we’re just at the beginning of this story.  I think it will expose who was going to get what out of the project — and who thought they weren’t getting enough.  Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich has been trying to keep things quiet and make the story go away.  His strange response has made me suspicious of him from the get-go, as if he was not just a victim of Christie’s hardball tactics, but a player with stuff to hide.  He seems desperate not to upset the apple cart.

The real scandal here is probably a bi-partisan one about bribes and kickbacks and payoffs that will take down both Republicans and Dems in the end.  It doesn’t seem to be a partisan GOP plot to punish a Dem who wouldn’t endorse Christie. It’s hard to imagine a billion-dollar project getting done in Jersey without some serious skimming.

Greed Is Not Good

When we think of greed, we think of a desire to gain more and more money.  But greed takes many forms.

In the case of the Chris Christie administration and the lane closures to the George Washington Bridge, they were too greedy in their desire for payback.

They could have closed off one of the three lanes from Fort Lee rather than two, which would have delayed traffic, but not as dramatically.

They could have messed with the bridge for one day, but instead they went on for four days, and would have continued for God-knows-how-long, had not an executive from the New York side of the Port Authority ordered the lanes open.

They could have sent a message to the Dems in Fort Lee that Christie shouldn’t be crossed, without sending a message to the GOP nationally that Christie shouldn’t be president.  But sublety, in Jersey?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

 

And It All Leads Back to…Donald Trump!

Ok, so back in 2007, David Wildstein, the guy who ordered the Fort Lee lanes to the George Washington Bridge closed and has since resigned in disgrace from his $150,000 political patronage job with the Port Authority, got financial backing to start a political website called Politicker.com.  That backing came from Jared Kushner, who was 26 at the time (rich father) and owned the New York Observer.  Wildstein had previously blogged about New Jersey politics under the name Wally Edge, but the new site would be national in scope.

Politicker.com lasted only about a year before failing for lack of eyeballs and ads.

Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump, the Donald’s daughter.

Christie Guy Takes the Fifth

David Wildstein, the disgraced Christie appointee to the Port Authority who told George Washington Bridge officials to close the Fort Lee lanes, was subpoenaed to testify before a committee of the New Jersey assembly today.

He refused to answer questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege.

If he flips in exchange for immunity from prosecution, he should have some interesting tales to tell.

Jon Stewart Now Chris Christie’s Top Adviser

On his show last night, Jon Stewart pointed out that Chris Christie hadn’t apologized for the Fort Lee lane closures that caused havoc there for four days.

Today, Christie took Stewart’s advice:  “I’m heartbroken about it, and I’m incredibly disappointed.  I came out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey.  I apologize to the people of Fort Lee, and I apologize to the state legislature.”

He also told his senior aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, the who emailed that it was time for traffic problems for Fort Lee, that it was time for unemployment problems for her.

He told his 2013 campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar on the email chain, that he won’t become chairman of the New Jersey GOP or work for the Republican Governors Association, as planned.

Conehead

Chris Christie’s 2016 presidential bid came to an end today.

The Jersey gov tried to laugh off questions about the closure of lanes leading from Fort Lee, NJ to the George Washington Bridge last September by sarcastically saying he was there, working the cones.  But tonight the sarcasm is gone, and Christie and his folks are in full damage-control mode.

That’s because emails have come to light showing that one of his senior aides, Bridget Anne Kelly, ordered the lane closures, telling Christie’s Port Authority appointee, David Wildstein, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein replied, “Got it.”

Wildstein, who has since resigned his cushy $150,000 a year job with no job description, began closing two of the three lanes leading to the bridge on the first day of school, causing delays of four hours and basically paralyzing all traffic in Fort Lee.  The closure went on for four miserable days, until one of the New York-side Port Authority executives learned of it and ordered an immediate stop.

Why would Kelly order the lanes closed?  Because Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor Mark Sokolich refused to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

Christie didn’t need Sokolich’s endorsement.  The race was never close — he was going to win and win big.  But it didn’t matter that they didn’t need Sokolich — he wouldn’t play ball, it’s New Jersey, so Christie’s people screwed with him.

And Christie ended up screwing himself.

It wasn’t Christie’s weight that sunk him, it was throwing that weight around.