Gov. Chris Christie's re-election campaign is seeking permission to use the remaining funds -- as well as raise additional money -- to pay the legal bills arising from its cooperation with the state and federal investigations into the controversial George Washington Bridge lane closures in Fort Lee.The Chairman of the ELEC, Ronald DePhillipis, is a Christie appointee and a CPA. In the past, the commission has denied requests like this from politicians under criminal indictment. However, Christie's campaign, so far, is not in the indictment phase of a prosecution. I suspect the Commission will approve the request which they can cut off in the future should the Christie campaign face a criminal prosecution. They have 10 days to reply.
Without approval from the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, the Christie for Governor campaign will run out of money and be unable to comply with subpoenas to turn over documents sought by the U.S. Attorney and the joint legislative panel investigating the matter, according to a letter Thursday from the campaign's attorney, Mark Sheridan.
The campaign has only $126,608 left after spending $12.1 million to get Christie re-elected, according to the letter. But only $12,905 of the remaining cash is permitted under state election laws to be used for "reasonable fees and expenses of legal representation."
Without commission from approval, the campaign "will find itself without the means necessary to respond to the subpoenas and will arguably face contempt charges," according to the letter from Sheridan of the Washington-based law firm Patton Boggs.
A key wrinkle in all this is that the campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has already indicated to the New Jersey legislature that he does not intend to comply with their subpoena and is pleading the Fifth. This can mean two things: 1. The campaign has already received a federal grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office which they intend to comply with or fight. Or 2. The Christie campaign is seeking to raise money on the basis of compliance with subpoenas that they intend to actually fight in preparation for a future criminal defense. Either way, the Commission must take these facts into account.
The real question here is who is going to pony up with the cash? Who will come to Christie's rescue and with how much? How will the money be raised? Will Christie attend fundraisers?
What if most of the major donors who gave to his re-election campaign decline to pony up to pay his legal bills? That would be a sure sign that the GOP establishment is abandoning ship and a clear signal that he's finished in national politics.
This is a key barometer in this thing. Stay tuned.