If you're Chris Christie or anyone close to him, tomorrow's edition of The (Newark) Star-Ledger isn't for you. The editorial board of New Jersey's biggest newspaper has a pretty scathing piece on revelations that Christie funneled money intended for Sandy relief to build a senior housing complex in a town that Sandy barely even touched.
First, a reality check: The Sandy aid that New Jersey received was intended to help the victims of the storm, not as a political slush fund. The governor peeled off some of it for a TV campaign featuring himself and his family during the re-election campaign, a shameless stunt that is now under federal investigation. If (Dawn) Zimmer's charges are true, he withheld aid from Hoboken in a bid to pressure her to approve a real estate project.As if that wasn't enough to leave a mark, the Star-Ledger wonders--loudly--if this adds to what is already a rank odor surrounding the attempt to extort Hoboken into agreeing to that project.
The latest twist comes from Belleville, where The Star-Ledger's Matt Friedman reported that Christie personally pushed his senior staff to provide a Sandy grant to help build a senior-citizen housing complex. And -- surprise -- the mayor endorsed the governor for re-election two weeks later.
So did Joseph DiVincenzo, the Democratic Essex County executive who was also pushing for this project. It was the type of support Christie coveted, to bolster his bipartisan credentials in anticipation of a future presidential run.
As a result, the relatively unscathed township of Belleville got more disaster recovery dollars to rebuild rental housing than some harder-hit towns. Even though the Belleville mayor himself conceded that his residents weren't displaced by Sandy.
It also raises new questions about Hoboken. Zimmer insists that Christie's officials -- including Constable -- linked Sandy aid to her approval of a downtown development that was represented by David Samson, a Christie confidant who is chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.Constable is Richard Constable, the head of the rebuilding effort.
So was the governor behind that threat? His aides have denied it. But when asked if there was any contact between the governor's office and the people who hand out Sandy relief in Hoboken, they refuse to answer. A public records request is pending.
Let's face it: Does anyone at this stage really believe the governor's claim that these grants are awarded based on merit and need?
Even if there is no connection between this and Hoboken, this situation--as the Star-Ledger rightly points out--absolutely reeks. The mayor endorses Christie, and ka-ching! he gets a plush new senior center with Sandy money--money that could have gone to much harder-hit areas. And if that isn't enough, DiVincenzo openly admits that Belleville residents will have priority to get spots in the complex--not Sandy victims.
To my mind, even if there is nothing to Bridgegate and the Hoboken extortion, this should disqualify Christie from running for president. And by all rights, it should be grounds to demand his resignation.