Bridgegate, the Sequel

The Christie administration is facing inquiry over a bridge. Again.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attends his election night event after winning a second term at the Asbury Park Convention Hall on November 05, 2013 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Incumbent Governor Chris Christie defeated his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by a commanding margin. 
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Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
June 24, 2014, 6:51 a.m.

In­vest­ig­a­tions in­to Chris Christie’s “Bridgeg­ate” scan­dal, the polit­ic­ally mo­tiv­ated lane clos­ings at the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge last year, have yiel­ded some de­cidedly bad news for the New Jer­sey gov­ernor: An­oth­er Christie bridge scan­dal at a com­pletely dif­fer­ent bridge.

In this new chapter of the Christie saga, in­vest­ig­at­ors are point­ing to se­cur­it­ies-law vi­ol­a­tions in a $1.8 bil­lion road-re­pair agree­ment from 2011, ac­cord­ing to re­port­ing in The New York Times. This time the in­quir­ies are centered around the Pu­laski Sky­way, the dilap­id­ated road­way con­nect­ing Ne­wark to Jer­sey City. The Christie ad­min­is­tra­tion sought to re­pair the crum­bling thor­ough­fare by di­vert­ing Port Au­thor­ity funds from a new Hud­son River rail tun­nel can­celed by Christie in the fall of 2010.

Port Au­thor­ity law­yers warned the Christie ad­min­is­tra­tion that the Pu­laski Sky­way, which is owned and op­er­ated by the state, falls out­side of the agency’s pur­view. Christie’s team jus­ti­fied the spend­ing by call­ing the road an ac­cess way to the Lin­coln Tun­nel (something that does fall un­der agency pur­view), al­though the two aren’t con­nec­ted. Soon after, Port Au­thor­ity law­yers changed their tune, al­ter­ing a memo to say the agency did in fact have au­thor­ity over the pro­ject. “We are now say­ing we have le­gis­lat­ive au­thor­ity,” the re­vised doc­u­ment read, ac­cord­ing to The Times.

The scan­dal du jour isn’t nearly as polit­ic­ally dam­aging as the scan­dal last fall. The mo­tiv­a­tions ap­pear to be sig­ni­fic­antly less trans­par­ent than they were for Bridgeg­ate (there is no re­tri­bu­tion against politi­cians who al­legedly didn’t go along with a Christie en­dorse­ment). Yet the whole thing smacks of a fa­mil­i­ar ab­use of au­thor­ity by the Christie ad­min­is­tra­tion, and that’s a place where the polit­ic­al dam­age has already been done.

Ac­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Polit­ic­al In­siders Poll, just 2 per­cent of Demo­crat­ic re­spond­ents pre­dict Christie, once a fa­vor­ite to win the nom­in­a­tion, will be the Re­pub­lic­an pick for pres­id­ent in 2016. The long list of names ahead of him in­cludes Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Paul Ry­an, Rick San­tor­um, and Scott Walk­er. Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, have been a bit more loathe to cast his 2016 chances as dead. The poll shows 11 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­an re­spond­ents pre­dicted he’d win the nom­in­a­tion, put­ting him in third place be­hind Jeb Bush and Marco Ru­bio.

One Re­pub­lic­an in­sider ima­gined Christie’s comeback as fol­lows: “Christie emerges from the ove­rhyped bridge-clos­ing is­sue and shows Re­pub­lic­ans what a full-spec­trum con­ser­vat­ive can ac­com­plish when prag­mat­ism and mov­ing the ball for­ward tri­umphs over lit­mus tests that keep us from even break­ing the huddle.” Any­thing’s pos­sible, but the tea leaves are look­ing in­creas­ingly hos­tile to that in­ter­pret­a­tion.

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