In the wake of Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, the broader questions about the governor’s team retaliating against other perceived foes have grown. Last week, for example, some other Democratic mayors in New Jersey came forward to suggest they, too, may have faced political retribution at the hands of the governor’s team.
The list included Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D), whose grant application for post-Sandy relief had been largely ignored by the Christie administration last year. But in this instance, the story isn’t about a non-endorsement; it may actually be far worse.
MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki aired a stunning report over the weekend with detailed charges from Mayor Zimmer about alleged Christie administration corruption. The above clip is well worth your time, but for those who can’t watch clips on line, Kornacki’s published report summarizes the crux of the story.
Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.
Many in the Republican Party were shaken by Christie’s bridge scandal and were admittedly fearful of another shoe dropping. With this in mind, Kornacki’s report represented a pretty powerful stomp over the weekend.
The allegations raised by Zimmer may seem a little complicated, but they’re fairly straightforward: there’s an area in Hoboken where developers are eager to build. The mayor’s office is open to the possibility, but she’s also asked for additional information and study before moving forward.
Zimmer’s delays appear to have made the Christie administration impatient, so much so that the mayor alleges that two members of the governor’s cabinet, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R), personally and directly told Zimmer that post-Sandy aid for her city would be contingent on her support for development deals.
The mayor has kept a personal diary, in which she detailed the alleged conversations. She also told Kornacki she would volunteer to testify under oath and take a polygraph test, challenging Christie administration officials to do the same.
The governor’s office denied any wrongdoing and sought to refute the accusations by pointing to Zimmer having praised Christie in the past. That may not necessarily help the administration’s case – if the Hoboken mayor is on record as a political admirer of the governor, it makes that much more difficult to believe she’s engaged in a political vendetta now.
The governor’s office went on to say Zimmer’s allegations are “outlandishly false,” though Christie aides said the same thing about Fort Lee allegations – and those denials turned out to be wrong.
And therein lies part of the political difficulty facing the governor and his team: the administration has already been caught once in a legitimate abuse-of-power scandal, for which Christie has apologized. In the process, the administration’s credibility is tarnished and officials’ denials are seen as suspect.
State lawmakers, already investigating the bridge scandal, quickly took a keen interest in the Hoboken allegations. Just as importantly, if not more so, the U.S. Attorney’s office met with Zimmer in person yesterday for several hours, and the mayor provided federal investigators with her personal journal and related materials.
By some accounts, it’s not common for a U.S. Attorney’s office to meet with a witness on a Sunday, suggesting the allegations raised by the mayor are quite serious, indeed.
UPDATE: Related video: