January 14th, 2014
10:15 AM ET
3 months ago

Christie scandals: What you need to know

Updated 9:39 a.m. ET, 1/14/2014

(CNN) – After trying to defuse the George Washington Bridge scandal with a leave-no-question-behind news conference last week in which he fired two top aides and apologized repeatedly for his being "blindsided" by what aides and appointees were doing, questions won't seem to go away for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

And the story took on new life on Monday with reports that the possible 2016 presidential candidate is being investigated on another front by a federal watchdog into how it spent recovery funds on tourism ads featuring Christie and his family.

Political vendettas 'as American as apple pie'

Here's what you need to know about the controversies swirling around Christie, as he delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday afternoon.

Christie speaks

Christie will address the bridge controversy when he delivers the State of the State address Tuesday afternoon, a source close to the governor told CNN. In an apparent effort to anger more people in the state, he’ll also call for a longer school day for New Jersey kids.

Is anyone outside of New Jersey paying attention?

Christie's approval and favorable ratings among Garden State residents has dropped, according to another new survey, which also indicates that most in the state don't consider their tough-talking Republican governor a "bully."

According to the Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll, Christie's approval/disapproval rating among New Jerseyans now stands at 59%-32%, down from 65%-25% last month.

According to a Pew survey, Americans paid more attention to last week's frigid weather than to Christie and the George Washington Bridge controversy. Forty-four percent say they very closely followed the news about the cold weather, with just 18% saying the same thing about events in New Jersey.

Another scandal brewing

CNN broke the news Monday that the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development is reviewing whether Christie improperly used Superstorm Sandy relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.

Who's who in Christie bridge scandal

The audit will examine New Jersey's use of $25 million in storm relief funds for a marketing campaign to promote tourism at the Jersey Shore after Sandy decimated the state's coastline in late 2012, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone told CNN.

Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder. The winning $4.7 million bid featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies, he said.

The inspector general's office confirmed the review.

Pallone told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" the probe seeks to explain how the contract materialized.

"The daily in my district, down at the Jersey shore, basically did this investigation, and they compared the contracts between the two bids. They basically said the lower bid was not willing to put Christie in the ad. And that was the one that was $2.5 million. And then when the higher bid at ($4.7 million) said it would put him and his family in the ad, they were chosen. The question is how did that process come about," he said.

Christie's office responded to the report Monday, saying the ad was part of an "action plan" approved by the Obama administration and developed with the goal of "helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history."

Ongoing (and renewed) investigations

The bridge scandal has spawned two investigations in New Jersey.

State Democratic legislative leaders are forming a special new committee to investigate the matter.

New Jersey Democrats ramp up bridge controversy investigation

New Jersey Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Priet and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald announced Monday that the committee's sole mission will be to look into the lane closings in Fort Lee, and that the panel will have subpoena power and will "utilize a special counsel."

The committee will be led by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, whose Transportation Committee has led the investigation of the widening political controversy so far.

Wisniewski's Transportation Committee loses its subpoena power on Tuesday, when the current legislative session ends and a new one begins.

The move on Monday by New Jersey Democrats places subpoena power with the newly formed special investigatory committee.

U.S. attorney probing Christie has opened wallet to Democrats

Additionally, the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, is looking into the bridge matter.

Pallone also said in the interview with "The Situation Room" that the issue goes beyond whether the governor is being honest in his account of his knowledge of the bridge scandal.

"I don't think the issue is whether he told the truth or not. I think the issue is he created this atmosphere around him. It's a bullying atmosphere. An atmosphere take no prisoners," he said. "I think they went too far and it's deplorable."

The legal problems

Wisniewski says he believes laws were broken when - as e-mails suggest - the governor's aides ordered lane closures at the nation's busiest bridge.

"I do think laws have been broken," he said. "Public resources - the bridge, police officers - all were used for a political purpose, for some type of retribution, and that violates the law."

Legislators need to "make sure any violations of law are addressed," Wisniewski told CNN's Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell on Saturday.

On Friday, the New Jersey State Assembly committee investigating the scandal released more than 2,000 pages of documents suggesting politics was behind the lane closures and showing top Christie aides allegedly tried to stonewall media inquiries into the matter.

The state legislative committee has yet to find any documents indicating Christie was involved in the lane closures, Wisniewski said Saturday. Christie says he wasn't.

The political problems

While some Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach on the question of whether Christie knew about the now-famous plot to close access lanes to the nation's busiest bridge, the chairman of the Republican National Committee said Sunday he doubts investigators will find any direct link between Christie and the politically motivated scheme.

"I don't think there will be one," Reince Priebus said. "Because I think we've got a really smart person in Chris Christie, who's a former U.S. attorney, who understands what's out there."

Priebus doubts there's a direct link between Christie and bridge scandal

What they're saying

David Frum, former adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote that the bridge scandal's key lesson is one of character, not tactics.

A lesson for Chris Christie from Richard Nixon

Whether Christie knew about it or not, he's responsible for setting the tone of his staff. As Richard Nixon ultimately concluded, it's destructive to focus on revenge against your opponents.

Legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan thinks that three prosecutors could take on the Christie case, but the odds of that are slim. The rule is: "If you are going to shoot at the King, you'd better be able to kill the King."

A Chris Christie prosecution would be political dynamite

CNN's Chris Frates, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Scott Bronstein, Paul Steinhauser, Michael Martinez, Ashley Killough, Dan Merica, Chris Kokenes and Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    Gurgyl

    This guy is a silly guy. I don't know how he got elected. After all this, at least I am honest, I can run for senate too.
    ------
    hahahaha... yeah... let us know how that works out for you.

    January 13, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Ol' Yeller

    @skinsfan66

    "Isn't funny how quickly the news media is lokking into these so called 'scanle' even though nothing has been found. To bad the media isn't as dillagent in looking into Bengasi or the IRS or Fast and Furious or the NSC, Acorn, Black Panthers with bill clubs outside of voting location in Philidelphia scandles. Ooops, I forgot, those are about Democrates and they get a free pass from the media."

    Nice try... (not really) only you are wrong on so many points. The media was NOT quick to report on this... this story grew from grassroots level (thousands of people complaining about this situation which went on for a week several months ago. Not too quick in this day of 24 hour news...
    As for the media NOT reporting on your list of glenn beck's crimes of the century... well in fact they did. They snatched them up right away, so much so (if you'd pay attention) one media outlet went over a cliff in their efforts to make a story out of nonsense and allowed some RWNJ air time to lie to the country. Fact is... your list (with the exception of the two black guys photographed benignly... somwhere... at some time) was thoroughly covered by this media outlet and every one I pay any attention to. The media finally had to put them down because they had squeezed all facts out of them.... and found...
    Nothing.
    They have found more evidence of malfeance in this scandal in the last week, then they ever found in your entire list combined after months of reporting.
    So... I guess you should really catch a clue at some point.

    January 13, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. Denise

    Ha, ha, ha.......More liberal media outrage for those uninformed redneck voters who watch FAUX News or listen to clowns like Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck.

    January 13, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. Jackson

    Former GOP

    @Anonymous
    One thing is for certain, the Democrats will now spend millions and millions trying to bring Christie down for purely political reasons. Those are millions stolen from the pockets of the NJ taxpayers.

    You mean they will try to emulate what Karl Rove has spent his life perfecting? It's about time!

    __________________

    You mean like how the GOP spent 30 millions dollars investigating Whitewater?

    January 13, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. rs

    Romney is STILL NOT My Hero

    Christie just go ahead and say, "I'm not running in 2016", and you'll fair a lot better. Until you do that, you'll continue to be lynched by the media.
    _____________________
    Quite true. However that more or less gives the Republican candidacy in 2016 to the crazies of the TEA Party- unless they run Mr. Romney (again!)- in either case, they lose. The GOP has to keep on painting the rosey image for Mr. Christie.

    January 13, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @current state of the union
    You idiots kill me, he took education funds and used it to give the rich more tax breaks.

    You are right. He kneels at the Kock Brothers feet like the rest of them. Only he makes more noise than most corrupt GOP Governors.

    January 13, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Denise

    Ha, ha, ha.......More liberal media outrage for those uninformed redneck voters who watch FAUX News or listen to clowns like Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck.
    -----------------------
    Fox News has backtracked a little bit after being heavily criticized for only committing about 14 and a half minutes to coverage of the BridgeGate email story for the first 24 hours after it broke. They're covering the story a little bit more, and are even going as far as to say that BridgeGate is a "genuine scandal." But, calling it "genuine" only serves as a lead-in to the menagerie of "genuine" scandals that have been confronting Pres. Obama during his entire time in the White House.

    January 13, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. bobo

    "Phony Scandals"

    January 13, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. Ol' Yeller

    "You mean like how the GOP spent 30 millions dollars investigating Whitewater?"

    That is chump change these days... Anonymous complains about millions spent to investigate Christie, but she kept her piehole shut when the te abagg ers House trolls spent 24 billion for exactly nothing.
    If you are going to be partisan... at least be a halfway decent partisan!

    January 13, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  10. rs

    Jackson

    Former GOP

    @Anonymous
    One thing is for certain, the Democrats will now spend millions and millions trying to bring Christie down for purely political reasons. Those are millions stolen from the pockets of the NJ taxpayers.

    You mean they will try to emulate what Karl Rove has spent his life perfecting? It's about time!

    __________________

    You mean like how the GOP spent 30 millions dollars investigating Whitewater?
    __________________
    Shoot, by their trumped up impeachment of President Clinton (for daring to have an affair at the same time as Mr. Gingrich), it was $58 million. They have already blown that to no good end on Benghazi. Throw in their overturn ACA law votes (47 times $1.5 million each), and their $24 billion blown during their shutdown, and we see just how fiscally conservative these nutjobs are.

    January 13, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. Honest Abe

    I love the conservatives who come in here and spout about Benghazi and other imagined President Obama stories. This is about a corrupt governor folks. A bully who thought he was invincible. The louder they blow, the harder they fall.

    January 13, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @Fair is Fair
    It's the beer he drinks... brewed in NY with the purest Hudson River water.

    Wrong again. NY drinking water is from protected reservoirs located in upstate NY and is considered among the finest drinking water in the world.

    January 13, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Hmm. So a democratic senator launched an investigation into a republican senator. Also ad's for tourism sound like a good idea to me.... to bring people back when local businesses probably spent all their money on renovations, and building up their business again. This bridge thing might be an issue but the rest of this is ridiculous

    January 13, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Politically driven witch hunts like this should be paid fro by the NJ Democrat Party. This is ALL about smearing Christie. And then people wonder why good, qualified people don't want to get involved in politics. This is why.

    January 13, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  15. Guest

    you know, I am still waiting for the two hour open press conference where either obama or hillary clinton answers reporters questions on benghazi. or a two hour press conference where obama answers reporters questions on hte irs, nsa, fast & furious, obamacare rollout, etc. wouldn't a person that claims to be the most transparent in history want to hold such a press conference?

    i guess only real leaders like christie walk the walk.

    January 13, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  16. Peach

    How is this any different than Obama using the IRS to audit conservatives???? Dem's just wanting to deflect from the real issues like Obamacare, Economy, etc. etc.......

    January 13, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @Fair is Fair
    It's the beer he drinks... brewed in NY with the purest Hudson River water.

    Wrong again. NY drinking water is from protected reservoirs located in upstate NY and is considered among the finest drinking water in the world.
    ----------------------–
    Yeah, but, most of the region's Budweiser comes from Newark, New Jersey. You can see the brewery from the NJ Turnpike, and it sits right next to, the ah, the Port of New Jersey. Amazingly, you cannot smell the brewery as you drive by a quarter mile away from it. I assume that you know why. It ain't the prevailing winds.

    January 13, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  18. Gail me

    Why is anyone surprised by this political scandal ? It's New Jersey after all. Corruption and skulduggery is a tradition. Why should Christie be different?

    January 13, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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