Pick Wayne's Brain

February 1, 2014

Christie is Not Yet Buttered

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast, he’s just not buttered yet. In a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting they reconsider their decision not to pay the legal fees of former Christie Administration official David Wildstein, who resigned after reports surfaced that he was the one who ordered lanes going to the George Washington Bridge be closed the first week of school last year, it was asserted that “evidence exists” which contradicts the governor’s claim that he knew nothing about the lane closings until he read about them in the paper after they had re-opened. The nature of that evidence is not revealed in the letter, which reads in part:

It has also come to light that a person within the Christie Administration communicated the Christie Administration’s order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee. Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.

Precisely which statements of Governor Christie’s can be proven false is not made clear.

Should Mr. Wildstein’s allegations prove true, that he has evidence which contradicts the Governor’s pleas of ignorance, there is no way that Christie can survive as Governor of New Jersey, let alone run for President in 2016. He has publicly stated many times that his administration was a reflection of him, and of the way he wanted to run New Jersey. And with information being reported that many of his top administration officials were involved in this bridge lane closing, people he consulted with on a daily basis, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that the Governor himself knew nothing about the bridge lane closings while they were happening. Which was the central theme of his now-famous two-hour presser. And it would be bad enough if this whole using-federal-property-for-political-retaliation (which is why the bridge lane closings are now the subject of a federal investigation) was the only scandal facing the administration. It’s not.

Enter Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Dawn Zimmer. A couple of weeks back Mayor Zimmer made the public allegation that New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno told her that if she would move on approving a land development deal tied to another Christie Administration official, her town might receive federal Hurricane Sandy relief money faster. “In an interview with MSNBC early today, Zimmer said Guadagno — the state’s first-ever lieutenant governor — pulled her aside during an event in Hoboken in May and made the connection explicit.”

“She pulls me aside and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It’s very important to the governor,” Zimmer said, referencing a journal she kept during the interaction. “The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right. These things should not be connected. But they are,” she says. “‘If you tell anyone I said it, I will deny it,’” Zimmer said, quoting from her personal journal.

Mayor Zimmer told several people about the conversation after it happened, and some of them have publicly confirmed that they were told this. But at the request of the U.S. Attorney investigating this alleged bribery of federal funds, none of those people are talking to the media anymore. Lt. Gov. Guadagno has denied the allegations as “illogical.” On a personal note, I did not find her denials credible, and the contention that Mayor Zimmer’s claims were “illogical” seems rooted in the idea that it would have been wrong of the Lt. Gov. to make the kinds of threats she did, so that’s all the proof one needs that she didn’t do it. That doesn’t work for me. If Mayor Zimmer is telling the truth (and I personally believe she is), then a denial is exactly what we would expect to hear. In fact, I would have been shocked if Lt. Gov. Guadagno confirmed the story, especially since she would go to jail if she did. The primary problem for the Christie Administration is that the evidence seems to support the allegations made against it, and its own claims of innocence do not strike people who know them as true. Even worse, as more stories come out, it appears that incidents surrounding the GWB lane closings and the Sandy Relief money (which also include charges that the Christie administration gave a contract to a firm who had a higher bid but who wanted to use the governor in the commercials, right before his re-election bid) are not isolated, and that more is yet to come.

And that’s why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast. He’s just not buttered yet. But he will be. It’s just a matter of time.

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