Another Week, Another Mayor: The Christie Scandal Widens

Jan 20, 2014
Originally published on January 20, 2014 6:44 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is facing new allegations, this time coming from the mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer. Mayor Zimmer says Christie's lieutenant governor threatened to withhold Hoboken's federal recovery money after Superstorm Sandy unless she backed a redevelopment project that Governor Christie supported. Matt Katz of member station WNYC reports.

MATT KATZ, BYLINE: Chris Christie was in Florida on Saturday, reassuring Republican donors that he was still a viable party leader and possible presidential candidate after revelations that his aides orchestrated a traffic jam for political revenge. But that's when new allegations broke. Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer, says Christie's lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, threatened to deny storm recovery money to her city if she failed to approve an unrelated project.

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER: The fact is that the lieutenant governor came to Hoboken, she pulled me aside in the parking lot and she said, I know it's not right. I know this thing should not be connected, but they are. And if you tell anyone, I'll deny it.

KATZ: The news was especially explosive because thousands in New Jersey are still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy and because it smacks of the kind of strong-arm tactics alleged in the so-called Bridgegate scandal. Christie has been dealing with that scandal for nearly two weeks now. Democrats subpoenaed documents showing that a top Christie aide ordered lane closures that created epic traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge. The governor apologized and four aides have left his administration. But David Samson, who heads the agency that runs the bridge and is a key adviser to Christie, still has his job. Samson is also a paid lobbyist in the redevelopment deal that Mayor Zimmer claims she was threatened over.

As the bridge scandal unfolded this month, Christie associates said they were waiting for their Democratic opponents to overplay their hand, allowing them the opportunity to frame all of this as nothing more than petty partisanship. With these new revelations from Mayor Zimmer, Christie's team apparently saw an opening.

HALEY BARBOUR: The news media is willing to leap at any farfetched story with the basis in fact unbelievable.

KATZ: That's Christie ally Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi, on CNN responding to the latest allegation. The idea that Christie withheld Sandy funds could be far more damaging than the charge that his aides caused a traffic jam. But unlike in Bridgegate, there is no smoking gun. Mayor Zimmer's evidence, which she has turned over to federal investigators, is her own diary entries. So, newly aggressive Christie loyalists are blasting Zimmer's accusations as libelous. And today, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno also denied Zimmer's allegations.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR KIM GUADAGNO: Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined.

KATZ: Governor Christie's next chance to push back on what has become a mounting narrative against him comes tomorrow morning. That's when he's sworn in for his second term as governor. For NPR News, I'm Matt Katz. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.