Here's a tip for all governors and gubernatorial hopefuls out there: Blaming a news network doesn't make your problems go away. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer met with federal prosecutors Sunday, a day after she accused Gov. Chris Christie’s administration of holding Hurricane Sandy funds hostage, and only hours after the Christie administration swept the allegations aside by calling MSNBC blatantly and aggressively partisan.But now that the ante's been upped, a Christie spokesman has called Zimmer's claims "categorically false" — better hope Christie's name doesn't show up on any of the subpoenaed documents.
Zimmer said Sunday that she'd met with federal prosecutors in Newark for several hours and told them that the ultimatum she'd been given — support the redevelopment project, or no aid money — came directly from the governor. At their request, she also turned over her diary — from which she has been pulling her examples — as well as other documents. “As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the lieutenant governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project,” Zimmer said in a statement.
A few hours earlier, Zimmer told CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" that Kim Guadagno, Christie's lieutenant governor, had given her the ultimatum back in May, and that he'd made it clear the message was coming from Christie. "The lieutenant governor pulled me aside and said, essentially, 'You've got to move forward with the Rockefeller project. This project is really important to the governor.' And she said that she had been with him on Friday night and that this was a direct message from the governor," Zimmer said.
In spite of Christie's spokesman, Colin Reed, dismissing Zimmer's claims as "categorically false," the U.S. attorney's office and a state legislative panel — who are currently investigating the governor's alleged role in the life-threatening traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013 — have said that they will now be looking into Zimmer's accusations as well.
"I think we have to give the allegations serious thought, because this is a pattern we've heard time and time again throughout New Jersey," said Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the legislator leading the state investigation — but not before former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused him of being part of "partisan witch hunt," and called on Wisniewski to step down.
In spite of an aggressive media backlash following both Bridgegate and CNN's report of a federal audit into the governor’s alleged misuse of Hurricane Sandy relief funds in New Jersey, the governor has kept a strong following. As Matt Katz of The Washington Post explains:
Consider that most of his potential presidential opponents have avoided slamming him on the controversy. Or that a New Hampshire poll released Thursday showed him leading all Republican comers — by a larger margin than in September. Most of those questioned had heard of Bridgegate, and 14 percent of GOP voters said it made them like him more ....Christie’s political advisers say interest was high for fundraisers he’s hosting this weekend in Florida, and national donors are calling to express support. The road to 2016 may now have some more traffic on it, but if Christie’s name doesn’t make a damning appearance in a subpoenaed Bridgegate document, he will have the cash and connections to mount a strong bid for the presidency.
Which just makes you wonder: just how starved for choices are we?