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. bob

    As a conservative Christie is the last one I would ever vote for. And what the he11 are they holding on to 32 million for. Get that money to the people who need it. Or are you liberal progressive in lions skin wanting to keep it for your buddies.

    March 13, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  2. bros

    The article by the Asbury Park Press was perfectly fine, as it was telling the truth: None of the money has been disbursed yet.

    Also, what is up with only giving the money to non-profits, rather than individuals?

    The Red Cross gets more than enough money in donations every year, they don't need to be reimbursed for the crappy help they gave. They literally charged my grandmother $3 for a small coffee and a donut every day for a few days until she got power back.

    March 13, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  3. North Dallas Don

    When we get the rich and powerful and their spouses or friends involved in charitable causes we often see corruption. Nothing to see here. It's business as usual.

    March 13, 2013 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  4. komododr

    Hahahahaha.........people just dont realize the money raised is for administrative expenses and don't expect much doled out to the real victim. At time of disaster, the money receive is not intended to help the victims but rather to replenish the coffer. People think the money they give is to help the victims which is not. The Red Cross operates the same way. The money recieved is not doled out to the victims of the recent disaster.

    March 13, 2013 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  5. stevetall

    It seems like the best strategy would be to speed it up a bit. I mean, it just looks fishy when $32 million comes in right away, and 4 months later, they're finally getting around to disbursing 3% of it?!? The big question that has yet to be asked is how much is their overhead? What does the good governor's wife get paid to run this slow-moving freight train of money? If it's in the 6-figures, the gov can kiss politics goodbye in the very near future.

    March 13, 2013 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  6. Cephas

    Common folks!! Leave the wife alone! And grow up

    March 13, 2013 03:12 am at 3:12 am |
  7. jonk from toms river

    i think ppl need to stop asking for a hand out i am very close to all the damage just blocks from the 37 bridge and in one of the areas very affected from the storm. i understand what this money is for and to even say Christie is a hypocrite cause he asked congress not to fail us ,, 1, that is 50 billion, not 33 million and yes that is alot of money, but like it was said its not for hand outs to individuals, there are many charities for that. ppl need to stand on their own 2 feet and stop expecting the government always to help. you lived in the area,you stayed you choose to live here like i do, im struggling just like others but i dont take a dime in aid. and the ppl writing this story need to stop acting like they do any better by ppl. all you do is try to swing your idea of politics down ignorant ppls throats hoping the believe the bull that you spew.

    March 13, 2013 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  8. Bob Ramos

    Several items:

    1. Why duplicate aid efforts? The Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc are entities that are already up and running and have been making relief efforts for months? Why not help them just raise the funds and let them administer the funds?
    2. As Gov Christie has said over and over again – the need is now and not weeks from now. If they raised $32 million and approved $1 million even if the $1 million has been disbursed, that is a very poor record.

    March 13, 2013 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  9. jon

    He needs to just change parties already. He's so out of touch with the constitution he needs to just go democrat. The constitution is meant to limit the governments rights, not the peoples.

    March 13, 2013 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  10. Whome

    My question would be how much of the money collected went into his pocket?

    March 13, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  11. Marie MD

    Here we go. You can't blame the government for not giving you money quickly enough and your wife is sitting on money that she is not using for victims!
    Oops, there goes christie in his tiny little canoe sailing away from 2016!

    March 13, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |

    Wingnuts involved. Always follow the money. They pay their friends.

    March 13, 2013 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Chris Christie: 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." O' President Obama, calling Uncle Sam, calling Uncle Sam...can you please throw some federal funds my way please. People in my state are suffering, have no homes, no food, no medicine and they are in dire need of federal funding. Pathetic loud mouth right wing crook.

    March 13, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  14. akita96th

    $32 mill hmmm wonder why they want to keep it ...Me thinks they sees a way to profit from it..Otherwise they would be out there on the street handing out money and or food to those in need but instead they chose to sit behind desks basking in their perceived glory of doing good and sitting on the cash and of course they get paid to handle the money ...Go out in the real world meet those in need and give out some relief checks the only to find out who needs it the worst is to see for yourself. Get off your lazy buts and do some good and quit bragging about what you are not doing.

    March 13, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  15. akita96th

    They are more concerned about the money than they are helping out those in need..All they got to do is go out to where the needy ones are and see for yourself who needs help and give out money and food..Quit sitting on your lazy butts behind a desk and acting important ..I think they see opportunities for their own needs by hanging on to the money and giving out small amounts and keeping the rest so they can have a cushy job of managing it. If they are so worried about someone getting it that doesn't need it then they should look at themselves. Or was the charity started out of opportunity seekers..hmmmm makes ya wonder. You ever notice when rich folks give large sums of money to charities its always some corporate charity that doesn't really do anything but gather up money and never really helps their fellow man look at all the money Bill Gates and Zuckerburg hand out and it is never for those who are hurting in to days economy it always goes to other countries or some useless charity...None of them really know how to give its all about looking good on the media.

    March 13, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  16. Rationalintn

    But I suppose the people who are "running" this charity are getting paid.

    March 13, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  17. bearitstrong

    He better defend his wife if he ever wants a "play date" again... LOL

    March 13, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  18. Really?

    "...the wife..."???
    Really Shannon Travis? (to be known from now on as "the joke")
    I want to know where in the CNN stylebook, it says you are to refer to the first lady of any state as, "the wife". It shows, not only a lack of respect for the first lady of NJ, but also a lack of respect for journalism.

    March 13, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  19. EVN

    Wait a minute. Isn't this a form of welfare? Why don't the TP'ers and the elephants who quiver whenever the mice are in the room all have their shorts in a knot over this? Where's loud mouth Grover Norquist, or Rush and the rest of the right wing loonies?

    March 13, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  20. ummmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Christie's paying the price for not demonizing Obama enough ... suddenly, he's being attacked and scrutinized ... far more than if he had toed the GOP line.

    March 13, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    She also cited challenges of starting a charity from the ground up and designing processes to ensure no money is wasted.
    It would at first appear that Mrs. Christie had NO problem figuring out the "processes" for getting the charity prepared to RECEIVE funds, yet the very reason for the charity, the DISBURSEMENT of said funds, has her stymied.
    I personally find it rather incongruous bordering on inappropriate for the wife of the Governor of a state that's been declared a state of emergency to head an organization whose priamry objective is to receive and disburse donations.
    I will give Mrs. Christie the benefit of the doubt and say that she's just being overly careful, but she would've served herself, her husband, and the state he governs better if she'd just rolled up her sleeves and volunteered at an already established relief organization, IMHO.
    May her efforts prove fruitful and ultimately beneficial for the people of the state of New Jersey.

    March 13, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  22. Randy, San Francisco

    Criticisms must be from Tea Partiers and extreme conservative purists.

    March 13, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  23. Moonraker

    That photograph of Chris Christie with his wife is disturbing. I can't imagine being in the public eye and not dealing with your morbid obesity. At some point it just becomes a dignity issue. When I see Christie all I see is a very fat man.

    March 13, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  24. Texas

    Live by the sword, die by the sword Mr Christie. You can't have it both ways.

    March 13, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    Has anyone considered the possibility that they may be trying to determine if the applicants for the grants truly need it? Fraud and scams are rampant in the wake of disasters like this.

    March 13, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
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