Now comes along Chris Christie who's trying to use one of Nixon's gambits, the non-denial denial, to cover up a fix that he may or may not have tried to pull off, but it's coming apart at the seams. Let's go below the fold.
It all starts in a little piece of Jersey known as Hoboken, whose most famous resident was the infant Frank Sinatra. Located on the other side of the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, the town has gradually been transformed from a warehousing, working-class enclave to the usual gentrified mix of fancy shops, high-rise office buildings and overly-expensive condos. Well, at least the waterfront has gentrified; inland some streets are nice, some are still drek. Anyway...
Back in 2012, Hoboken and many other coastal towns in New jersey were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. You may recall a pivotal moment in the 2012 election when Obama visited New Jersey while Romney sat on his duff in Indiana. Now there'a a very nice, three-acre parcel just waiting for development in Hoboken and an investment group in New York known as the Rockefeller Group, had been quietly negotiating to develop the parcel and they brought some big juice to the discussions in the form of David Samson, a power-broker attorney who happens to be a buddy of Christie's and is also by dint of Christie's appointment, the co-chair of the Port Authority.
So that's the background and it already smells fishy but now let's get down and dirty. Seems that back last May, the Mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, was visited by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who conveyed a message from Christie that basically tied Hurricane Sandy funds to Zimmer's backing of the Rockefeller proposal. I'm not a specialist in criminal law, but the last time I checked, what Christie allegedly wanted isn't quite blackmail and it isn't quite extortion, but it's damn close to both.
Last week Mayor Zimmer blew the whistle, the Feds have interviewed her and some of her staff, and all of a sudden Christie's got a bigger problem than just some lane closings in front of the George Washington Bridge. Because if it turns out that he did tell his Lt. Governor to offer Zimmer a quid-pro-quo of supporting the development project in return for federal disaster aid, he's violated at least one federal statute and perhaps a couple more.
So here comes the non-denial denial, ready? When questioned by reporters about the meeting with Zimmer, the Lieutenant Governor had the following to say: "Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false." But Zimmer and her staff have been quick to point out that neither Christie or Guadagno have explicity denied that a discussion about storm aid and the Rockefeller Group proposal ever took place.
If that's not a non-denial denial right out of the Nixon playbook I don't know what is. But since we're talking about Hoboken, why should you be surprised? After all, Frank Sinatra isn't the only famous American to be born in the town. Hoboken's also the birthplace of G. Gordon Liddy. Think about that!