Monday, January 20, 2014

For Chris Christie the GW Bridge Issue Goes From Something Silly to Something Serious

Federal Crimes May Have Been Committed in the Use of Hurricane Relief Funds

This Forum has taken the position that the political scandal surrounding the massive traffic jam created by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s aides is not the major scandal that most political pundits have characterized it.  The issue is playing out in a rather dull news season, and the story itself is so bizarre that it has gathered more attention for national consequences than it deserves.  But it does not seem to have staying power.

But now it is being charged that the Governor and/or his closest associates tried to use the withholding of Hurricane Sandy relief funds to force New Jersey Democratic mayors into supporting the Governor and his projects.

Mr. Christie’s trip, which was supposed to showcase his political resilience after the rockiest period of his governorship, was overshadowed by claims from the mayor of Hoboken, N.J., Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat.
In a television interview on Saturday, she said that two high-ranking aides to Mr. Christie had threatened to withhold money for Hurricane Sandy recovery to her hard-hit city if she did not support a real estate development that the governor

This is serious stuff.  While we have no ideas of the legal issues here, it is difficult if not impossible to believe that if it is true that federal funds were used to extort favors, that is almost certainly a criminal act, a violation of some criminal laws.  And the charges have credibility, there is more than one source and there is some documentation from the major of Hoboken about what was happening at the time.  In fact, given the vicious response, the blaming of the victim by attacking the mayor of Hoboken and the media there may well be substance to the charges.

So while the GW bridge traffic jam may not be fatal to Mr. Christie’s national electoral prospects, something like this is.  And all it will take are some indictments, a few plea bargains, a trial and continuation of the issue in the news.  If the Feds act, Mr. Christie is roadkill.

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