Yesterday, we saw Chris Christie rank as the "hottest" politician (followed closely by HRC) in a Quinnipac survey. The support Christie gets from Democrats continues to vex and confuse me--as I have written in past diaries (here and here, for instance).
Christie's politics regularly show him to be a conservative Republican--his vetoes of marriage equality legislation and a minimum wage increase, his taking NJ out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and gutting environmental regulations, his torpedoing of the ARC project, his repeated efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, his attempt to cut public education spending so much that the state Supreme Court ruled the cuts unconstitutional, his support for privatizing education, his incessant vilification of public workers (especially teachers)---the list goes on. Christie is no "New England moderate Republican." He's solidly conservative.
His efforts at coordinating disaster relief merit praise only insofar as one merits praise for doing one's job.
But rather than continuing with that rant, let's get to the new stuff.
Today, the editorial board of New Jersey's Star Ledger delivered a scathing attack on Chris Christie for his ego-gone-wild. Christie, you see, spent $2 million extra from the hurricane relief funds so that he could be in the commercial promoting tourism to the Jersey shore. That's right, he took $2 million that should have gone to hurricane victims for his favorite pastime, hearing the sound of his own voice (and seeing his face on the teevee).
The Star-Ledger editorial board begins,
Gov. Chris Christie’s habit of using his public office to promote his presidential ambitions has reached a new low.But, as the editorial board says, he's now "outdone himself":
We’ve seen him do it before. He closed down six Planned Parenthood clinics to appease right-wing primary voters. He’s dragged his feet relentlessly over medical marijuana and dismissed concerns over climate change for the same reason. This fall he is wasting taxpayer money by holding an election in October, in addition to the regularly scheduled November election, solely to protect the large victory margin he expects for his party.
This time, he siphoned off money that was intended for victims of Sandy to promote himself in a series of TV ads. That is a new low, one that should play prominently in his campaign for re-election.(Emphasis added)
Here’s what’s new: It turns out the Christie administration turned away a qualified low-bidder seeking to produce the series of TV commercials promoting tourism at the Shore, titled “Stronger Than the Storm.”
Instead, Christie’s appointed cronies chose to spend $2 million more for a campaign produced by MWW, a public relations firm based in East Rutherford that’s known for its abundant political connections in both parties.
Why? The governor’s office dances and shuffles around this point, and the woman in charge of this selection process, Michele Brown, wouldn’t comment.
But know this: MWW proposed a series of ads featuring the governor and his family, a move that would be illegal in New York state and should be here. The firm with the lower bid, the Sigma Group, did not.
What makes this so offensive is that the money comes from federal aid intended for storm victims.
So maybe Sigma’s plan was flawed in other ways? No, not even according to the committee of insiders that reviewed it. According to records obtained by the Asbury Park Press, Sigma’s bid “addressed the tasks and deliverables specified in the RFQ (request for quotations) ... (and) could effectively meet the requirements of the RFQ.”
Brown, for the record, worked in Christie’s inner circle at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and is now head of the Economic Development Authority. In 2007, while working for Christie, she borrowed $47,000 from him for personal reasons.
Are we supposed to believe this was a detached and unbiased review? That a Christie loyalist happened to pick the ad campaign that featured the governor and his family, and is set to broadcast in other states where he will need votes to win a presidential primary?
Sorry, we are not buying it. This stunt is legal, but it is as sleazy as can be.
It is true, as Christie’s blind defenders will say, that former Gov. Tom Kean was featured in tourism promotions. That was a mistake, too, but on a much smaller scale.
What makes this so offensive is that the money comes from federal aid intended for storm victims. So the next time the governor visits the Shore to take credit for Washington’s help, maybe the families and small business owners who are still on their knees can ask the governor why he ranked his own self-promotion as a higher priority than their relief.
And besides — no offense — Springsteen would have made a much better star in these spots anyway.
Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic challenger, is a committed progressive in a state whose Democratic Party is often a model of corruption. And unlike the Norcross-owned 'Christiecrats" in the state legislature, Buono has actually fought Christie's conservative agenda.