He Owes Snooki an Apology

Gov. Christie’s scandal reminded me of how he had criticized the cast of Jersey Shore for not reflecting well on his state.  I went back and found the language he used when he vetoed tax credits for the show in 2011, calling it “a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the State and its citizens.”

Meanwhile, he’s not perpetuating misconceptions, he’s proving that our negative perceptions of Jersey are true.

If you were trying to get to a job interview or cancer treatment and a drunken, passed-out Snooki blocked your path, you could just step over her and be on your way, but if you had to cross the George Washington Bridge last September, it wasn’t that easy.

Doesn’t Even Begin to Scratch the Surface

If you read one story today, make it “Hoboken Mayor: Christie Team Shook Us Down for Sandy Relief,” Brian Murphy, Talking Points Memo (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/hoboken-mayor-christie-team-shook-us-down-for-sandy-relief).

Some excerpts (but read the whole thing):

“Hoboken received only 1% of the aid they had requested for Hurricane Sandy relief and planning funds even though it was one of the hardest-hit communities in the state during the storm. At one point, 80% of the 50,000 person city was flooded. If you remember the footage of water gushing through an underground subway station, that was in Hoboken; it has, in fact, the highest per-capita use of public transit of any city in America. Yet so far the state of New Jersey has given the city about $350,000 from the billions of dollars in federal disaster relief and planning aid that it is charged with administering. That’s about $6 per resident. It has been enough to pay for one major planning study and to buy one backup generator for an $18 million emergency storm water pump.

“50,000 people. 80% flooded. $6 a head.

“News outlets and the mayor have both wondered if the anemic aid was a punishment for Zimmer not endorsing the governor’s reelection bid. Mayors in Jersey City, Elizabeth, and other New Jersey municipalities have been asking the same question since Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich raised the possibility that his refusal to endorse Christie led to the lane closures on GWB and the four-day-long traffic nightmare in that town.

“This Hoboken story and the Fort Lee/GWB story might seem like separate tales. But they’re not. Moreover, these latest revelations put to rest the notion that Hoboken’s Sandy aid or the Fort Lee/GWB story have anything to do with local Democratic officials’ endorsement of the governor during his reelection campaign. Forget about the endorsements. It never really added up anyway.

“It’s time to retire hashtag headline word ‘Bridgegate.’  The term doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.”

Murphy notes that of the nineteen-block neighborhood that was part of a 2013 study for redevelopment (a technical term that means you qualify for tax abatement, tax credits, grants, and other goodies), only the three blocks owned by the Rockefeller Group (David Samson’s client) were deemed eligible.

Wildstein Ready to Sing

David Wildstein, the Christie appointee who resigned from his $150,000 Port Authority job over his role in Bridgegate, is ready to spill his guts in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

He’s the one who replied, “Got it,” when Christie deputy Bridget Kelly emailed it was time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.

The unraveling begins.

Dead Gov Walking

Chris Christie gave the first state-of-the-state speech of his second term today.  I predict it will also be his last.  He’ll be gone by this time next year.  Once you pull a thread in New Jersey politics, you know the whole damn thing will inevitably unravel.

And he actually said, “mistakes were clearly made.”   While you’re firing folks, Chris, fire your speechwriter.


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.