- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2014

Already reeling from the “Bridgegate” scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced new political trouble Monday as federal investigators questioned whether he violated the law by spending $25 million in Hurricane Sandy emergency money on tourism ads featuring his family.

Democrats had begged for the investigation and on Monday Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat, said the inspector general at the Department of Housing and Urban Development confirmed it will investigate. Mr. Pallone said he was troubled by Mr. Christie’s use of his family in the ads, which appeared during an election year.

Mr. Christie’s office denied any wrongdoing and dismissed Mr. Pallone’s “conveniently time announcement.” The aides noted that the ads had been praised by the Obama administration earlier, only to face scrutiny now as the Republican governor deals with a scandal involving lane closures at the base of the George Washington Bridge that set off massive traffic jams for a city run by a Democratic mayor.


SEE ALSO: Christie jabs at Congress on anniversary of Sandy for slow recovery


“The ‘Stronger Than The Storm’ campaign was just one part of the first action plan approved by the Obama administration and developed with the goal of effectively communicating that the Jersey Shore was open for business during the first summer after Sandy,” Christie spokesman Colin Reed said. “We’re confident that any review will show that the ads were a key part in helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history.”

In the ad, Mr. Christie and his family use their cameo to make sure people know the “word is spreading” that the battered shore is “stronger than the storm” and open for business once again.

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Mr. Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, apologized to New Jersey residents last week and fired two top aides after state lawmakers released documents that indicated the Christie administration tried to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for failing to endorse the incumbent governor’s re-election. Mr. Christie romped to a second term in November, spurring even more talk of a possible 2016 national run.


SEE ALSO: Chris Christie: Superstorm Sandy recovery is just beginning in New Jersey


The lane closures caused gridlock in the small New Jersey town for four days in September.

Democrats in the state Assembly created a legislative supercommittee Monday to continue their probe even after the legislative session ends on Tuesday.

“This has become more than a transportation issue,” New Jersey Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, said. “It’s now gone beyond that.”

The steady trickle of allegations against Mr. Christie, a former federal prosecutor known for his no-nonsense approach to governing and perceived “bullying” of political foes, may get worse as Democrats recall prior slights and wonder if it was revenge for failing to see eye to eye with the boss in Trenton.

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, a Democrat, suggested Monday the Christie administration closed a branch of the state Motor Vehicle Commission in his town for opposing legislation favored by Mr. Christie. The closure came abruptly, even though Elizabeth has maintained an office “since the time that Henry Ford built cars,” the mayor told MSNBC.

The governor’s office said the consolidation of vehicle stations was based on use and saved the state $300,000, according to a statement posted by the news channel.

The calendar is posing another political headache for Mr. Christie, who gives his State of the State address to the legislature on Tuesday and will mark the start of his second term next week with a high-profile inauguration ceremony set to take place on Ellis Island, historically a gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants.