Bob and Barbara Dreyfus, The Christie Watch team at The Nation, have another post today detailing a wrinkle in Chris Christie's long-range presidential plans. They've even included a lovely portrait of the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, giving credit where credit is due.
We all know that Christie harbored presidential aspirations and that he used redevelopment projects to strong arm mayors and others with local power to bend to his will, er, rather to engage in win-win scenarios. The GWB scandal is thought to be driven by seeking the endorsement of Ft. Lee's mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich. Endorsements from Democratic leaders would ensure Christie's nomination by proving he had bipartisan support.
So where's the New Hampshire connection? The primaries. Christie's politics don't seem to fit with the demographics of other early primaries such as in Iowa or South Carolina, but he had a chance in New Hampshire. So he planned ahead, you know, for insurance.
Until recently, it appeared that Christie had an ace-in-the-hole in New Hampshire: a key aide, who was part of Christie’s 2013 reelection team, was hired late last year as executive director of the New Hampshire GOP.You might remember that this was reported before, when the focus remained on the GWB scandal, before it expanded to Hoboken and Sandy aid and all the others redevelopment projects that seem to be implicated. Matt Mowers was one of the 17 who were subpoenaed by the New Jersey Assembly on January 16, 2014. Since then Democrats in New Hampshire have been shining their flashlights on Mowers.
Unfortunately for Christie, that aide, Matt Mowers, has been ensnared by the lane-closing scandal at the George Washington Bridge. In January, Mowers received a subpoena from the New Jersey state legislative joint committee looking into Bridgegate, and it’s getting attention in New Hampshire. The reason why Mowers is involved is because he was in charge of Christie’s political operations in eight New Jersey counties in 2013, territory that included Fort Lee, the western terminus for the George Washington Bridge. And, famously, it was Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, who was pressured to endorse Christie for reelection last year. When Sokolich refused, it allegedly led Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and a Port Authority official, David Wildstein, to retaliate by orchestrating “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
And it was Mowers who met with Sokolich repeatedly during the 2013 campaign to seek the mayor’s endorsement. Lately, Sokolich—who’s met with the US attorney’s office in Newark to discuss the matter—has been speaking out. According to the Bergen Record, Mowers persistently tried to persuade him to back Christie.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party issued a press release in January asking many of the same questions we have been asking.
Close to a week after news broke about top Christie aide’s scheme to block access to the George Washington Bridge and put people’s safety at risk for political revenge, Granite Staters are still seeking answers. When did Mowers hear about the plan to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee, and was he involved in concocting it? What contact, if any, did Mowers have with employees of the Port Authority, and did others within the Christie campaign have contact with Port Authority employees? And when was the last time Mowers talked to Bridget Kelly and Bill Sepien, his two former bosses who have been forced to resign, and did they discuss the bridge scandal?The press release has several links to back up their assertions that New Hampshire is paying attention.
In many ways, there is nothing new here. If we comb through all the ChristieGate diaries that have been posted since last fall, I'm sure we will find mention of Mr. Mowers, his former and current positions, and his subpoenae. I do find it helpful, however, to revisit these items as we get more understanding under our belts as to both the specifics of these scandals and the overarching big picture. I've long thought the every single nefarious action was a means toward the end of the presidency, not just power-broking for shits and giggles. But what do I know?