Christie defends wife against Sandy relief criticism
March 12th, 2013
06:23 PM ET
1 year 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. UDidntBuildThat

    So let me get this straight. Obama comes to NJ for the photo-op promised to cut all the red tape in Oct. By end of December, Sandy victims still were w/o power and no relief in sight screaming for help. Obama and his family jets off to Hawaii for his $7 million taxpayer funded Christmas vacation. Not a PEEP for the media about all of this and how people are suffering while the Obamas are living it up and surfing in HI. But you all are going after Mrs Christie's charity? Really?

    March 13, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  2. Ol' Lefty

    Wonder who started looking into this? Don't get me wrong, I am suspicious of some of these groups, including the Red Cross, as far as the question of how much aid actually gets to those in need. So this story should be followed. But I am also suspicious about the politics of this, given Christies' unpopularity among the righties.

    March 13, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  3. Marguerite

    This is all political. "THEY" couldn't pick on his fabulous response to Sandy, so they pick on his wife....all just fear that he is getting too popular. Pick on FEMA...or doesn't that fit with the smear campaign?

    March 13, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    ted wrote:

    Mary Pat should get Chris to go on a diet. .
    ------------------–
    Some women like "teddy bears". I know a couple of women who like a man with pot belly. One calls it a "magic mountain."

    March 13, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Dr Matrix

    Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think there is a difference between a non-profit distributing funds and Congress using a disaster relief bill as political leverage. Do not forget what happens when emergency money if handed out too quickly. The first stimulus package went to banks and insurance companies with no oversight and much of it ended up in the bonus packages of the upper management that drove the company into the ground.

    March 13, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  6. mary

    Lesson to be learned here is that they should have focused on what was the mission statement of their charity. What was the goal? Help individual families rebuild? Help business establishments rebuild? Or just provide immediate needs. Not defined in this story so therefor must not have been defined in their inital goals initative. A shame that $32 million sits there when people need assistance to restart their lives. Lack of direction and leadership. I would imagine that the people who donated are just as frustrated because they thought their money would be used to help someone.

    March 13, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    UDidntBuildThat

    So let me get this straight. Obama comes to NJ for the photo-op promised to cut all the red tape in Oct. By end of December, Sandy victims still were w/o power and no relief in sight screaming for help. Obama and his family jets off to Hawaii for his $7 million taxpayer funded Christmas vacation. Not a PEEP for the media about all of this and how people are suffering while the Obamas are living it up and surfing in HI. But you all are going after Mrs Christie's charity? Really?
    ---------------–
    IReally? 'm not even going to recognize your attempt to demonize as noteworthy by telling you nice try. It's less than weak, and an insult to all because you actually expect people to believe your "facts". Your opinions are not facts.

    The House is constitutionally duty bound to originate all revenue related bills, most especially spending bills. Christie called it correctly when he called out Spkr Boehner and the House Republicans.

    March 13, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Some women like "teddy bears". I know a couple of women who like a man with pot belly. One calls it a "magic mountain."
    -------------------------------------------------
    Dominican women don't mind a man who has a pot belly. No I don't know what that's all about! But Christie has a problem. A BIG one. Not attractive, and quite frankly concerning.
    I'm not thinking so much "magic mountain" as Grand Teton.

    March 13, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    This is not the first time that I've seen this picture of Gov. Christie and his wife.
    Please get rid of it CNN. He looks like the Hulk and he's scaring the children.

    March 13, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    Quoting from the above article: Comments on the group's Facebook page vary in intensity.

    Here we go again with the moderation. What, exactly, is wrong with asking whether or not CNN uses Facebook for their journalistic information? Indeed, I quoted from the article itself.

    March 13, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  11. Smacky Smooth

    Sounds like the GOP propaganda machine moving again. They are slapping Christie on the wrist for daring to speak against the party. Next they will go after his children, pets, former elementary school teachers, former college classmates. Both parties do this to their own when someone steps out of line. Pathetic, but as long as the general public buys into it, it will continue. Let's face it, relief wouldnt have been distributed fast enough for anyone. In that situation, you need help that very hour, but it is not possible. Also let us also never forget that Bloomberg took care of Wall Street after Sandy but the regular folk were left to lump it for a long time. Proof that no party is above overlooking the common neo-serf.

    March 13, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Dominican mama wrote:

    Dominican women don't mind a man who has a pot belly. No I don't know what that's all about! But Christie has a problem. A BIG one. Not attractive, and quite frankly concerning.
    I'm not thinking so much "magic mountain" as Grand Teton.
    -----------
    She likes to whisper with the girls, then laugh and giggle about "water slides" and "ski slopes".

    March 13, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  13. Jack

    She trying, what are the rest of you doing?

    March 13, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  14. Smacky Smooth

    @dominican...would you like Emporer Bloomberg to pass a law outlawing "fat folk"? I prefer to hear and see a person for character rather that if they fit in size 32....shallow is as shallow does.

    March 13, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    After all, campaigning for office takes a lot of money. Way to get a foot up on the competition Christie. Very savvy.

    March 13, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  16. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Don't be surprise if teapublicans in congress file a motion to recoup the federal funds the President gave to Christie. It might be retribution for Christie praising the President for helping NJ.

    March 13, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  17. ohio

    this is political bashing and it's very transparent. Congress can't hide behind these non-profits like this forever. I am not defending anyone who is sitting on money and not helping the average person-whether it's banks or this organization. Still,I think in 2014 we need to vote quite a few of these elected officials out of office–especially those who cater to banks and special interests. They need to go–.

    March 13, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  18. Ferret out the BS

    Be patient, it's not easy distributing those levels of funds to the right organizations.

    March 13, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
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