The Star-Ledger reports yet another case of highly suspicious real estate development in Why Is Walmart Paying Chris Christie's Pals? Walmart wants to build a new store in a protected New Jersey Forest that is a home of the endangered species, the Northern Pine Snake. The plan was rejected by regulators in both the Corzine and Christie administration. Then Christie says on a radio program, there might be a way to make the plan work, but it would take a lot of work. Walmart hires Wolfe and Sampson, and George Gilmore as their lobbyists and bingo, doors are open, and regulators find a way to make an exception to state environmental policy so that Walmar can buy land elsewhere and move the snakes making environmentalists furious.
Days after the Department of Environmental Protection rejected the second application for a Walmart in 2010, saying that it would destroy too much woodland, would take away habitat for the threatened northern pine snake, and would take away too much coastal area, Christie told the editorial board of the Asbury Park Press regarding the rejection, “There may be a way around it.” ... "It will get more review, and the DEP commissioner will be meeting with the folks at Walmart to talk about alternatives to their current plan that will make it workable,” he added.
Ocean County, where Toms River is located is one of the most reliably Republican bastions in the state, giving Christie his biggest margin of victory in 2009. The state’s Republican chairman, George Gilmore, is considered one of the most powerful political bosses in a state full of them. Gilmore was an early and enthusiastic backer of Christie, served on his transition committee and is said by Trenton insiders to meet monthly with the governor dating back to his time as U.S. attorney. After Christie won election in 2010, Gilmore was hired as general counsel by the lobbying firm 1868 Public Affairs, which began working on behalf of Walmart during the Christie era. The objective, according to the firm's website: to “enhance image of the world’s largest retailer with NJ Legislature and key Administration decision-makers. Stop anti-big box and healthcare legislation targeted specifically at Walmart.” ... "This thing was dead. Next thing you know, Wolff & Samson get involved and it gets approved."
Environmentalists were furious, saying that the plan would lead to the mass extinction of the snake population. ... “This thing was dead. Next thing you know, Wolff & Samson get involved and it gets approved,” said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club. “It was the first time that the state had allowed the direct taking of endangered species for development, moving their dens rather than building around them.” ... “You try to find some other habitat for the snakes and they all will die,” Tittel added.
Hey, wait a second. This kind of thing is starting to look suspicious. Is anyone else beginning to see a pattern here? I've always suspected that the GWB lane closings was as way to pressure the real estate developers in Fort Lee to come to Christie's favored law firms for their "proven track record" of overcoming state of New Jersey regulatory roadblocks.
This Walmart case is now apparently before a state court.
In other Christie news, The Star-Ledger has also just broken a story reporting the the New Jersey Legislative Investigative Committee has decided to take Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly to court over their defiance of subpoenas, in Bridge scandal panel to take Bill Stepien, Bridget Anne Kelly to court over subpoenas:
TRENTON — The legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closings will take Bill Stepien, Gov. Chris Christie's two-time campaign manager, and Bridget Anne Kelly, his former deputy chief of staff, to court to enforce its subpoenas, The Star-Ledger has learned. ...
Attorneys for Kelly and Stepien reiterated today that they would not comply with the subpoenas for a host of reasons, most notably that it would violate their Fifth Amendment rights shielding them from self-incrimination.
The co-chairs of the committee, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) and Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), said in a statement earlier today that they would continue efforts to enforce subpoenas, but they declined to discuss specifics.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to join you all in active participation in comments until a few hours from now as my girlfriend and I allowed ourselves to be seduced into watching the entire first season of Dexter today, rather than getting ready for our trip to Florida, so now our plane leaves in the early morning and we are running around still getting ready. I'm such a bad hounddog. I'm so addicted to these Christie stories I can't help myself.