The advertising firm that lost the bid for the tourist marketing campaign to promote the New Jersey shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy said it was asked whether it would be willing to feature New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the proposed television ads, CNN
New Jersey ad agency Sigma Group put in the lowest bid for the work, but the company that proposed to feature the governor and his family won the bid, even though they charged more than $2 million more.
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The decision prompted questions about mis-allocation of funds and accusations of ethics violations given the governor was featured in the ads during a time he was running for re-election.
Sigma Group President Shannon Morris told CNN that her team was asked during the pitch meeting "if we would be open to featuring Chris Christie in the ads."
"We didn't want to commit one way or the other. We were confident in the creative direction that we had presented. Our opinion was that maybe they knew something we didn't about the requirement or maybe they felt strongly for one reason or another that he should be included," she said.
"We also wanted to stand behind the work that we had submitted that didn't feature the governor or any other celebrity."
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.
The agency's inspector general is specifically examining "whether the state administered its Tourism Marketing Program in accordance with applicable departmental and federal requirements," according to CNN, but stressed that the process is "an audit and not an investigation of the procurement process."
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