In politics, when officials are caught doing something wrong, it’s only natural to wonder whether they’ve engaged in similar misconduct before. Were the misdeeds the exception or the rule? Is there a pattern of transgressions or a lone incident?
When it comes to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal, it’s clear the governor wants the public to believe that the misconduct was a rare lapse, completely at odds with the above-board way in which the governor’s team generally operates.
The problem, of course, is that Fort Lee wasn’t the only community targeted for political retribution. Yesterday, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) produced emails documenting what happened after he failed to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign. As Rachel explained on the show last night, the governor’s team, led by none other than Bridget Kelly, arranged a series of meetings for Fulop to meet with department heads and state agencies to discuss his community’s needs: “The state commissioner of transportation, the state treasurer, the guy who’s heading up post-Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts for the whole state, the commissioner who handles all local government issues, the head of the economic development authority for the whole state. They’re all going to come to Jersey City to meet with the new mayor.”
That is, right up until the Democratic mayor says he’s not going to endorse the Republican governor’s campaign. Within an hour, agency heads cancel their meetings with Fulop without explanation. Within a few days, literally all of the meetings between Jersey City’s mayor and the state officials – discussions that had been months in the making, dealing with departments in state government that had nothing to do with the campaign – were off.
Christie aides would later boast that they were maintaining “radio silence,” ignoring the mayor’s request for information, treating him the way they treated Fort Lee’s mayor after the governor’s office imposed crippling traffic that paralyzed the community. [Update: To clarify, the Jersey City incident happened before the Fort Lee traffic.]
It’s simply implausible to think the non-endorsement and the silent treatment are unrelated. Yesterday, however, a Christie spokesperson responded to the story.
The pitch? That Mayor Fulop, the one who was punished for having the audacity to support a different gubernatorial candidate, was being “partisan.”
The feud between Gov. Chris Christie and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop kicked into higher gear today, with a Christie spokesman accusing the mayor of engaging in “partisan politics.”Colin Reed, a Christie spokesman, today blasted Fulop, hours after the mayor released emails and text messages that back up the mayor’s contention that state officials canceled a series of meetings it set up with Fulop last July. […]“Mayor Fulop’s words and actions must be viewed through the lens of partisan politics and his attempt to advance his own personal agenda,” Reed said in a statement.
Look, whether or not Christie and Fulop get along is irrelevant. Their “feud” may have political implications in New Jersey, but what emerged yesterday is clear evidence that the governor’s team retaliated against a mayor because the mayor refused to play ball with Christie’s re-election campaign. It’s a story that warrants a legitimate response.
And so we’re left with two truths. First, Team Christie apparently can’t explain why they engaged in this retribution. If the governor’s aides had a compelling defense, they probably would have shared it by now.
Second, the same administration that appears to use public resources as chips in a high-stakes game nevertheless feels comfortable complaining about others being “partisan.” Irony weeps.
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