New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the one-time national GOP icon whose star faded in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, is now caught up in a total of seven probes, casting a shadow over his prospects for a successful 2016 presidential run.
According to The Daily Beast,
the investigations range across city, state, and federal authorities, and includes an internal probe as well.
For six months, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman has been investigating the controversy which involved the September closure of commuter lanes in Fort Lee onto the George Washington Bridge, causing hours of traffic delays for several days in September.
The closures were allegedly an act of political revenge orchestrated by some of Christie's top advisers as payback for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich refusing to endorse Christie's re-election bid.
The outcome of the investigation could result in federal charges for intentional interference in interstate commerce and possibly for the obstruction of justice if investigators conclude that there was a deliberate coverup.
Christie has continually insisted he was not involved in the decision to close the lanes, but a number of key aides have resigned over the scandal. Even if the governor is cleared, indictments of those formerly in his inner circle could continue to cause doubts about his role in the affair, the Beast reported.
Separately, the Joint New Jersey State Senate and Assembly Committee launched its own probe into the Bridge-gate affair, issuing subpoenas to some of the key players involved.
Democrats were vocal in pursuing the issue and were accused by opponents of capitalizing on it for partisan reasons. Little has come of their investigation as a judge refused to grant the subpoenas on the grounds that they were too broad.
Hoboken's Sandy Funds Held Hostage
Fishman is also investigating allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that two members of Christie's cabinet said her city would not receive additional Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds unless she approved a proposed real estate project favored by the administration.
"Sandy is an issue of criminal bribery. There could be a number of potential crimes, not the least of which could be extortion," said Christopher Adams, vice president of the Criminal Defense Lawyers Association of New Jersey, according to the Beast.
Questionable Allocation of Sandy Relief Funds
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is looking into whether the Christie administration awarded Sandy recovery funds to firms with ties to the administration, who may not have been offering the most competitive rates for their services.
Christie hired a Louisiana-based firm, Hammerman & Gainer, to help get victims of the storm back into their homes. It later emerged that the company's New Jersey law firm had recently made a $25,000 donation to the Republican Governor's Association, chaired by Christie, which has led to allegations of cronyism and misuse of funds.
Meanwhile, the administration came under fire for using Sandy funds to promote tourism in the areas affected by the storm. The funds were used for television ads featuring the governor and his family during his re-election campaign. What's more, the project was awarded to a firm that charged $4.7 billion, even though a second bidder, who did not propose featuring the Christie family, put in a bid for $2 million.
Missing Cash for Canceled Tunnel Project
The Manhattan District Attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the disappearance of $1.8 billion of Port Authority funds which had been allocated for a train tunnel into New York whose construction Christie later canceled, the Beast reported.
It is possible the funds were illegally moved to pay for the renovation of the Pulaski Skyway, an elevated roadway connecting Newark and Jersey City, and three other roads and bridges. Port Authority officials allegedly misrepresented the rationale for using the funds.
The New York Times reported there could be steep consequences if wrongdoing is found. Using the Martin Act, a New York state law, felony charges could be brought against the officials "for intentionally deceiving bond holders, without having to prove any intent to defraud or even establish that any fraud occurred," the Times reported
Political Contributions Linked to Government Contracts
New Jersey's "pay to play" law bans the award of government contracts to businesses that also are contributors to candidates, political parties, and public officeholders.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley called for an investigation into whether the law was broken when the Christie administration engaged a venture capital firm for its pensions whose executive and producer, Charles Baker, a GOP candidate for governor in Massachusetts, contributed $10,000 to the New Jersey Republican Party Committee.
Coakley, a Democratic running against Baker, requested that the Securities and Exchange Commission review the $15 million deal between New Jersey and the firm, General Catalyst. The New Jersey Treasury Department's auditor is also reviewing the matter.
Internal Investigation Into Bridge-gate Clears Christie on Taxpayer's Dime
Christie engaged his attorney Randy Mastro to conduct an internal investigation into the Bridge-gate controversy. A 360-page report, based on dozens of witnesses and thousands of documents, cleared Christie of wrongdoing, but was paid for using public funds.
The report also blamed a number of former aides in Christie's inner circle.
"While the report found nothing damaging because of course it didn't, it's hard to think of something that looks worse than charging your constituents for an unnecessary investigation of yourself that does nothing but bad-mouth your detractors," the Beast said.
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