We learned this week that in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) administration used the Port Authority last year in an unexpected – and arguably deeply offensive – way when reaching out to mayors for campaign support. Kate Zernike and Matt Flegenheimer reported that Christie’s team distributed “pieces of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center” to mayors whose endorsements Christie was eager to win.
It fell to Bill Baroni, Christie’s top aide at the Port Authority and a figure at the center of the GW Bridge Scandal, to distribute the sought after items from the 9/11 attacks.
It was hard not to see this as sleazy. The destruction of the Twin Towers was no minor event; for the Republican governor’s team to use these pieces of steel as campaign goodies seemed wildly inappropriate.
The New York Times reported yesterday, however, that the Christie administration has decided to stop the practice of distributing 9/11 wreckage to “politically important” officials.
The distribution policies for the steel given out in New Jersey were changed at the Port Authority last week, officials said Tuesday, and will no longer be handled by Mr. Christie’s political appointees, but by the agency’s professional staff, which handles the steel for the 49 other states and the rest of the world.
What a remarkable coincidence. These important, hard-to-get pieces of steel salvaged from the ruins of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were treated as political goody-bag treats in New Jersey, right up until reporters started asking about the Christie administration’s handling of the materials.
At which point the administration’s policy changed.
If you missed last night’s segment on this, it’s well worth your time:
“It’s weird timing, though, right? The same week that the New York Times is reporting out this cringe inducing story about political scheming by the Christie administration involving one of the most sacred events in American history. That same week, Governor Christie’s new appointee at the Port Authority says, publicly, ‘Actually nothing to see here, we’re not doing it that way anymore. We’ve had a change of heart.’“The Port Authority told us tonight that the New York Times reporting had nothing to do with their decision to change the rules for how New Jersey was handling World Trade Center steel. So apparently they were going to make that change anyway – it’s just coincidence that it changed as soon as the world was about to find out about it and collectively wretch in response.“Just a coincidence. That’s what they say.”