Catching up with Christie scandal

Catching up with Christie scandal
Monday, January 20, 2014 - 7:22am

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was raising money for Republican candidates in Florida, more trouble was brewing back home.

This time, the Democratic Mayor of Hoboken claims the New Jersey Governor used Superstorm Sandy recovery funds as leverage over a development project stalled in the city across the Hudson River from New York.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno approached her in a parking lot in May and told her that if she didn't support a Hoboken development project proposed by The Rockefeller Group, a firm with Christie ties, that she wouldn't receive Sandy recovery funds.

Zimmer said Christie was directly involved in the threat, according to Guadagno. "She said that to me ... this is a direct message from the Governor," Zimmer said.

That wasn't the only news made this weekend, though. Here's what you might have missed.

Who's saying what?

Zimmer: "Now the fact is that she came, Lieutenant Governor pulled me aside and said essentially, you 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 Friday night and that this was a direct message from the Governor."

Guadagno: Nothing -- yet. But the Lieutenant Governor will "categorically deny" Zimmer's allegations on Monday at a volunteer event in Union Beach honoring the Martin Luther King Jr. national day of service, a source close to Guadagno told CNN's Chris Frates.

"Kim remembers in their conversation that she was talking about redevelopment and making investments in Hoboken. She remembers Zimmer pressing Kim for money for Sandy. Kim remembers saying you can't tie the two together," the source said. "And she remembers Zimmer continuing to press and showing her a map of the city and pressing for aid for Sandy."

Christie: His spokesman, Collin Reed, said, "It's very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic Mayors with a political ax to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television."

The Rockefeller Group: "We have no knowledge of any information pertaining to this allegation. If it turns out to be true, it would be deplorable."

John Wisniewski, the chairman of the Assembly special committee that's investigating the bridge scandal: "This certainly has attracted our attention. We need to obtain all relevant facts, confer with our special counsel and determine the committee's best course of action," he said.

What they're doing

Talking to the feds: After telling her story on CNN's State of the Union, Zimmer had another interview -- this one with federal investigators. In a statement Sunday, Zimmer said she met with U.S. attorney's investigator "for several hours at their request." And that she provided her journal and 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 the statement.

Where was Christie?: He was raising money in Florida for incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign and meeting with big Republican donors.

CNN political contributor Ana Navarro tweeted from the donors meeting that when asked about 2016, Christie replied, "Come see me next year."

About the scandals in New Jersey, Navarro tweeted Christie said, "I haven't enjoyed the last 11 days; no sane person would. Life presents challenges. u have to deal w/them."

Christie connections: The Wolff and Samson law firm represents The Rockefeller Group, the real estate group trying to do the development in Hoboken. Port Authority Chairman David Samson, a Christie appointee, is a founding member of the firm.

Lori Grifa of Wolff & Samson is the former community affairs commissioner for New Jersey. Zimmer showed MSNBC an email from Grifa lobbying on behalf of the project and asking to speak with her.

Coming to Christie's defense: Seaside Height Mayor Bill Akers, a Republican who has publicly endorsed Christie, said he found what Zimmer had to say "surprising" and that "it just doesn't fit" with the Governor that he knows.

Akers said after Sandy, he worked with many Mayors along the shore, both Republicans and Democrats, and hasn't heard anyone talk about undue pressure from the Governor's office.

"I think he's been even-handed, he genuinely cares," Akers said. "What you see is what you get with the Governor."

Did Hoboken receive any Sandy money?: Christie's office said it did. Reed, Christie's spokesman, told CNN that Zimmer asked for $100 million from a roughly $300 million pot of money for which there was $14 billion worth of requests.

Since that request, Reed said, Hoboken has been approved for nearly $70 million in aid. The city has also been identified as a pilot community for a federal program to prevent flooding, one of only four such projects in New Jersey.

But Zimmer had a different take: "I think we really got shortchanged on the funding."

She said the $70 million given to Hoboken was mostly from flood insurance that did not need approval from the state. She received only $300,000 in Christie-approved funds, she said.

What does this have to do with a bridge?: It doesn't -- that's a separate scandal, one of the three in which Christie is currently snarled.

The bridge scandal concerns lane closures in Fort Lee near the congested George Washington Bridge. Members of Christie's staff have been implicated in closing the lanes for political payback.

Two members of the Port Authority have lost their jobs over it and so have two close Christie aides.

The state and federal government are also investigating, but there hasn't been any evidence that Christie was directly involved.

Then there's those tourism ads in which Christie and his family appear. The company that won the contract to produce the ads -- and included a role for Christie -- bid almost twice as much as the low bidder, which didn't include Christie.

Christie's troubles are no laughing matter: Except on "Saturday Night Live." 

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