Friends, it was just one year ago this week when some mysterious traffic problems popped up in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Was it a “traffic study?” (Hint: no) Was it a pathetic attempt by the administration of a vindictive governor to exact revenge on his political enemies? (Hint: ding ding ding!)
Since the story first broke, Christie’s approval ratings have plummeted, he’s lost voters’ trust (in New Jersey and beyond), and the integrity of his conduct in office has fallen into question. Through thick and thin, American Bridge has been by his side, issuing open records requests to get to the heart of the real story, highlighting the ethical shortcomings of Christie’s administration, and having a bit of fun along the way.
So here’s to the good times over the past year since Christie took out his political anguish on his own constituents, and so many more to come. Join us on a trip down memory lane, before Governor Christie closes it out of political retribution:
Twenty-six hours of audio tape of emergency worker dispatch calls from Fort Lee, New Jersey, were released on February 28, 2014. These tapes cover the four day span during the BridgeGate scandal in which some lanes onto the George Washington Bridge were closed in Fort Lee, leading to massive traffic problems throughout the region.
The audio from these tapes provides a window into the burden local law enforcement and emergency response workers shouldered while Christie’s administration sought to penalize a political foe of the Governor.
Chris Christie has gone to great lengths to distance himself from David Wildstein, the “Bridgegate” figure who is now reportedly willing to provide additional information in exchange for immunity. Contrary to Christie’s assertions, photos have surfaced showing Christie and Wildstein together while the lanes were closed.
In state after state, Republican candidates are going to great lengths to avoid being seen alongside Governor Christie — even when he’s in town to raise money that will help them! He may have once been considered a rising star, but today Chris Christie is something else entirely: Persona Non Grata.
At the NGA conference in February, Chris Christie dodged press questions about bridgegate, while Scott Walker, who’s been dodging Wisconsin reporters for days, took the opportunity to knock Christie for the developing investigation into his scandal.
With Christie’s rising star rapidly sinking, and Walker on the chopping block as questions continue to swirl around the latest in his “John Doe” investigation, is this what the Republican Party has in mind when it says its governors are “taking the lead”?
The report to exonerate Chris Christie in Bridgegate, for which he spent $1 million of New Jersey taxpayer dollars, dominated local news coverage in New Jersey yesterday. The general sentiment – we spent a million bucks for this? – comes as no surprise given Christie’s taxpayer-funded attorneys did not even interview key players in the scandal, took the governor’s claims at face value, and failed to release all of the evidence they reviewed for their report.
While Chris Christie is in Iowa trying to pretend the Bridgegate scandal is no big deal, the governor’s incoming chief of staff, Regina Egea, testified that she texted with Christie about his George Washington Bridge scandal last fall, but subsequently deleted the texts.
We look forward to hearing Christie’s explanation for why he thinks his aide would delete such text messages, if he truly believes he did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide.
Christie claimed that David Samson, Christie’s appointee as Port Authority Chairman, had convinced Christie that he had “absolutely no knowledge” of the politically-motivated lane closures brought to light on January 8th< in emails from Christie’s top staffers. However, in those same emails, former Port Authority official David Wildstein assured Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly “Samson helping us to retaliate.”
The ominous message suggests that further exploration of what Christie and his top officials knew, and when, is warranted.
After Governor Chris Christie stated that he would “act accordingly in terms of releasing…to the public” information related to his office’s conduct in the bridge scandal, his administration has now provided unlawful reasons for denying and delaying its response to a request for personal email correspondence of Bridget Anne Kelly and Michael Drewniak.
American Bridge requested those emails be made available to the public under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) following revelations that Christie’s staff conducted official business on personal accounts. Christie’s administration failed to provide a timeline for releasing these emails, and cited the volume of requests it is receiving in its response. Most concerning in the Christie administration’s denial is its reference to executive privilege.
If Christie truly wanted to put this scandal behind him, his office would swiftly comply with requests for information related to his staff’s conduct.
As BridgeGate documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey State Legislature are due to be turned over to investigators today, it’s worth reviewing the timeline of what Governor Chris Christie has said he knew about this growing scandal and when he says he knew it.
While Christie has doubled down on his claims that he knew nothing of the lane closures while they were happening, his public statements on this timeline have been inconsistent and imprecise.
Governor Chris Christie’s taxpayer-funded attorneys released a report that supposedly “clears” Christie of any wrongdoing in the scandal known as Bridgegate. This report, which was conducted by a firm with close ties to Christie, involved analysis of documents the Christie administration failed to provide to the state legislative committee investigating the scandal. In other words, Christie’s defense team gave themselves a first look at everything – and now, they are continuing to keep those documents shielded from public view.
The firm that conducted the investigation has close ties to Christie. One of their attorneys even received a lucrative contract from Christie’s office as U.S. Attorney as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. Christie’s use of deferred prosecution agreements has come under fire in the past as a tool he used to reward allies.
But the most egregious piece of Christie’s bogus self-exoneration is that it has come at a cost of $1 million of taxpayer money. The Star Ledger has called on Christie to return the taxpayer funds that were used for this farce, and I think most New Jerseyans would agree that their hard earned money could be put to much better use than “clearing” Christie in a scandal created by his own administration.
The press conference today and accompanying report supposedly exonerating Chris Christie of any wrongdoing in the Bridgegate scandal make quite a few leaps of faith when it comes to accepting Christie’s self defense at face value, and leaves even more questions unanswered. Given that no original documents were released along with the report, and despite the $1 million price tag for New Jersey taxpayers of this investigation, we’re left with few answers and only more questions about Chris Christie’s involvement in this scandal.
Figures released yesterday confirm it: New Jersey taxpayers are footing a nearly $1.1 million bill for Chris Christie’s Bridgegate self-exoneration. What did they get for this hefty sum, which could have been put to better use funding any number of actual policy priorities? A whitewashed, discredited report that takes at face value Christie’s denials of knowing about the scandal. While Christie is fundraising out of state today, perhaps he should look at raising some money to pay back New Jerseyans forced to pay to clean up his image after his administration’s wrongdoing.
American Bridge released the full results from a Bridgegate FOIA for the schedules of Bill Baroni, former Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The 1,000+ pages of documents returned by the Port Authority include Baroni’s schedules – including meetings with senior advisors to Governor Christie, and expense account records and tickets related to Baroni’s travel from last year.
Just throw it on my tab!
That’s Chris Christie’s message to New Jersey taxpayers, as his self-exoneration bill keeps climbing and climbing. New documents yesterday showed that through February, New Jersey has been billed over $3 million so that the Governor can “clear” himself of wrongdoing in his bridge fiasco.
Bridgegate one has been a box office success thanks to a thrilling plot that has included lawsuits, lies, and retribution. The self-exoneration fees alone have already raked in over $3 million taxpayer dollars, and it’s still in theaters.
But before the original Bridgegate can even finish playing, its director and executive producer, Chris Christie, is already releasing a sequel.
That’s right. A second bridge scandal. This time, according to New York Times, the Governor is under investigation by the SEC for pressuring the Port Authority to improperly divert funds intended for a Hudson River tunnel project to the publicly owned Pulaski Skyway, against repeated warnings.