Christie defends wife against Sandy relief criticism
March 12th, 2013
06:23 PM ET
5 years ago

Christie defends wife against Sandy relief criticism

Washington (CNN) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is defending his wife against criticism that the charity she helms is not distributing money fast enough to help victims still suffering after superstorm Sandy.

The governor's comments are raising eyebrows for what some see as an unfortunate irony: earlier this year Christie blasted Congress for not acting fast enough to provide relief funds for New Jersey's affected communities and businesses.

On Monday, the Republican governor addressed a weekend report in the Asbury Park Press that said out of millions of dollars raised by the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, not a penny has yet helped victims over four months after the storm tore through the Garden State. The governor's wife – Mary Pat Christie – chairs the nonprofit organization.

A spokesperson for the fund told CNN it has raised $32 million. When it does disburse its funds, the money will only go to non-profit relief groups and not to individuals. The spokesperson insisted $1 million has been disbursed already, but could not vouch for whether or not the money has actually helped victims.

The governor was asked about the report during a Monday press conference in North Brunswick. His office provided CNN a transcript of the governor's remarks.

"What I can tell you is I know in broad strokes they raised somewhere between $32 and $33 million, was the number I had, was given. I know that they've approved grants for over a million dollars," Christie said.

"Whether those grants have gone out the door yet, I don't know. It seemed the story over the weekend seemed to indicate they haven't gone out the door. But I know they've been approved because Mary Pat told me they were approved." Christie added that he is "really proud" of his wife's helming the fund.

"I think she's been very clear and was very clear over the weekend that her concept of this fund from the beginning, which all the donors were told, was that this would be a long-haul organization, not one that would jump in and throw a lot of money at the problem early, but one that would be there for the next two years or so."

Mary Pat Christie is not part of the fund's panel that awards grants. But as chair of the overall group, she defended its pace of financial disbursements in an interview with the Asbury Park Press.

The wife cited groups like the American Red Cross and Robin Hood that have provided immediate relief to those hit hard in New Jersey.

"They've been out there already executing their relief strategy," the wife said. "And I think that, especially Robin Hood has been really wonderful at helping us bridge this gap."

Mary Pat Christie cited another reason for the slow pace of disbursement from her group.

"Admittedly we're learning how to do this. But I also was willing to take our time and be careful because I knew the Red Cross was there," she said.

"Non profit money is out there," she added. "I actually think that we're going to, you know, be distributing this money at a really opportune time because some of those organizations will have moved on."

"We're going to be here until, you know, the state's recovered," the wife added.

She also cited challenges of starting a charity from the ground up and designing processes to ensure no money is wasted.

Yet some feel the hurricane relief fund needs to move faster.

Comments on the group's Facebook page vary in intensity.

"Release the money…we are desperate down here for food and shelter for many!!!" wrote a poster named Cyndi Laughlin.

Frank Riehl, another frustrated poster, wrote: "Really more than half of the town of Ocean Gate was destroyed during the storm. You raised millions of dollar in relief aid for victims of the storm. But some one in one of the most heavily damaged town is not eligible for aid. Okay so what you are saying is that you have Millions of Dollars and you are NOT handing it out? Since you are NOT handing it out. What are you doing with it?"

The fund's pace of distribution is also receiving scrutiny in light of the governor previous blasting of Congress for not providing aid to affected residents fast enough.

In January, just over two months after Sandy, a frustrated Christie criticized House Speaker John Boehner and Congress for not allowing a vote on Sandy Relief. The governor also alleged a double standard: saying that much faster relief had been given to victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Andrew.

Shortly after, Congress passed a $50 billion aid package for Northeastern states hit hard by the storm.

With $1 million disbursed so far, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund moves next to doling out $5 million in grants to non-profit relief groups. The fund hopes to get out that money by the end of March, the group's spokesperson said.

Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. ted

    Mary Pat should get Chris to go on a diet. Maybe if he was exercising and losing weight, he wouldn't see a need to 'weigh' in silly stuff like foundations to help the needy. Most foundations contribute very little money to the needy instead the money is used to help the rich. Hey the Christie's are Republicans. What a surprise here.

    March 12, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  2. Walt

    Hopefully that hot-headed bully will be gone in 2014.

    March 12, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  3. Catmandew

    Kudos to Governor Christie, you have to stand up for your partner! It takes time to set something like that up and it appears they are doing their best to do the job right! The article says they giving money non profit relief groups so it will take time to distribute the money. Also says they are in it for the long haul so they will get better at this next time around!

    March 12, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  4. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    More conservative gop propaganda and misinformation againest christi from the gop national disgrace party . Christi is to high class to be in the gop and should dump the gop ASAP !!! Their going to lose the house in 2014 mid terms anyway !!!!

    March 12, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  5. mike0404

    This is how non profits work. Since this charity is new, they had to hire staff, develop policies and procedures, request grants, review grants submitted, and award the grants. Next, they will have to monitor the grants with additional staff to make sure the money is spent as intended; a lot of paperwork, time and money. Of the $33 million, millions will be spent on office space, staff, telephones, computers, printers, meals and cars, all duplicating established non profits that already have infrastructure. If they want to have a more immediate impact, they could transfer their funds to a better managed non profit and go out of business. If they continue, they will have to report annually to the IRS expenses and disbursements, and this may come back to bite Christie in the rear in 2016 if they screw this up.

    March 12, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |

    Not a republican. Have to say though, he's the best shot the republicans have in 2016. Still believe that if the contest came down to him or Hilary, he'd lose. He'd probably lose by a landslide, but that remains to be seen.

    March 12, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  7. Pete

    Words of the wise to Christie and that's if you don't want you family members brought into the meat grinder of politics don't let them get involved in any of it or keep it silent big guy then there's no defending needed right...Christie can you say honestly and that's hard for you being included in this corruption investigation in NJ that might kill your presidencial bid that your wife isn't getting any salary or kickbacks from this supposid charity for Sandy victims.Just asking after reading,researching your past as NJ AG and now being checked out by the states present AG about political,corporate corruption I tend to wonder what's really going on behind that bully in the size 58 regular suit and I'm being modest too!!

    March 12, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. John P

    Chris is taking the $ and buying cheeseburgers with it.

    March 12, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. Don't know what he says

    even in todays economy, the interest off of 32 Million adds up fast and lines the pockets of those overlooking the money.

    March 12, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  10. Jackie

    Great advice from Karl Rove on how to collect milions for Christi campaign. Now the people who donated to the Sandy victims know their money is used for Christi's political campaign. The ctizens asked Obama for help as Christi took his photo op and lied about helping. Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen were used by Mrs. Christi and the fans should be mad. Christi is known as a crook but is playing both sides but at lease 49 States see the scam. Mrs. Christi should be charged with stealing.

    March 12, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  11. Rob

    I'm not from New Jersey so i don't know much of anything in regards to the state or the affect Hurricane Sandy had on it. Regarding the money, I'd rather they help people instantly but I do understand that there are a lot of sharks (no pun intended) out there who are waiting to act as a front and then steal that money from the people who need it, like what happened after Hurricane Katrina. I don't think the governors wife is intending to do anything malicious, nor do I think Gov Christie would allow that to happen on his watch. I sympathize with those who need the support immediately and I implore those who are there currently (the Red Cross) to aid those people. Good luck citizens of New Jersey!

    March 12, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  12. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Christie is an elected official and can expect some criticism. Leave his wife out of it.

    March 12, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  13. Steve

    His wife has done a good job yet no money has been releaseds. Wasn't too long ago he was having a temper tantrum because he was blaming the republicans for not releasing money. Loud mouth hypocrite.

    March 12, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  14. mercfan

    I don't think there is any impropriety going on here. The only issue I have, is when they started collecting the funds, they never said how the funds were going to be used. Most people thought it would go directly to those in need at the time they were displaced for immediate relief No one ever said, it was going to be used for long term relief, in many cases years later. One of the delays – the fund is waiting for the affected areas to set up county level organizations that would decide how to distribute the funds. It seems like they are creating too many levels of bureaucracy, which is not the most efficient use of the funds. If their intent is to make grants to other organizations like the Red Cross. If people wanted to donate their money that way, they could have donated directly to those organizations and cut out all the extra admin expenses these additional layers will create.

    March 12, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    She is a part of the organization and needs to get its ass in gear. If she has any influence (likely she does because of the weight her husband has), then she needs to use it to have the organization move faster.

    March 12, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  16. Steve in texas

    "We're desperate for food yet somehow have complete internet access!!!"

    March 12, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  17. Thomas

    It's New Jersey stupid , u think it's Louisiana! ?

    March 12, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  18. Monica K

    People complain all the time without understanding what goes on. Christie has your back,New Jersey ,and I will give the benefit of the doubt to this charity that they have your back,too. I bet they would have done more sooner if Congress hadn't delayed so . Congress is the bad guy here!! Not Mary Pat.

    March 12, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  19. Woman In California

    Why am I not surprised? I haven't in the past nor will I ever trust Governor Crispy Kreme. This is just the beginning of things to come and anyone expecting him to "be the answer" in 2016, will find out he's nothing more than a loud mouthed bully with no mannerisms or real empathy for anyone outside his family.

    March 12, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  20. IwillvoteforChristie

    I'm sure its his own party doing this to his wife. They would rather lose the election in 2016 by catering to the crazy folks in their party than running someone with common sense like Christie.

    March 12, 2013 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  21. Ja

    The lay is right,you think America was in the stone age, when it comes to emergency relief

    March 12, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  22. sonnie3

    Chris Christie keeps shooting himself in the foot. And then runs off a rant to defend his or his wife slow response.

    March 12, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  23. HenryMiller

    "...Christie blasted Congress for not acting fast enough to provide relief funds for New Jersey's affected communities and businesses."

    Why should American taxpayers have to pay to rebuild New Jersey? It's not our fault if they hadn't bought the right insurance.

    March 12, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  24. enuff

    Would they prefer that they just throw the money out to anybody who held their hands out? I guess then they would scream about accounting and accountability. Does CNN have an issue with Christie now? Dredging up non-issue stuff to try and make people question a person's integrity without any reason to do so.

    March 13, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  25. Larry L

    Since Republicans believe in "states rights" and deplore the concept of a federal government with strong capabilities why does any relief money cross state lines? Why do people in New Jersey, who take responsibility for their lives even accept charity or aid? Maybe the Democrats are correct and we need to distribute the disaster costs to enable areas devastated by natural events to recover and return to rebuild their homes?

    March 13, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
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