Google+

Tags: Chris Christie

Duneboggle: Chris Christie Literally Creating Malarial Swamps In New Jersey



Text  



In a new development in the war at the shore, one of the more widely ridiculed objections to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s dune-building plan — that dunes cause swamping and prevent drainage — turns out to be less wild than dune supporters claim. This is what the area behind Absecon Island’s dunes looked like after last week’s nor’easter flooded a town that already has Christie-style dunes in place:

To the left the dune barrier can be clearly seen; to the right is the boardwalk in Ventnor. In the last decade, Ventnor has built a wall of dunes to the specifications Christie’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have in mind for the entire Jersey Shore.

During last week’s very typical storm, Ventnor experienced heavy flooding. Neighboring Margate, the city that has launched a court battle against the Duneboggle, stayed relatively dry. In both cities, the only flooding came from rising bay waters and faulty rainwater drainage — the same pattern that has held through every recorded storm on Absecon Island including Hurricane Sandy. No flooding at all came over the beaches from the ocean, which is the only avenue of water damage the dunes (or “berms”) in the Corps of Engineers’ Absecon Island Coastal Storm Risk Reduction Project would deal with. The project contains no funding or planning to remediate bayside flooding or improve drainage in flood-prone areas.

“This USACE project is not a back bay or localized flood control or prevention project, it is a hurricane and storm damage reduction project based on ocean wave impacts,” a DEP spokesman told National Review Online after last week’s bayside flooding. “This project would surely be helpful to those residents in Margate or Ventnor or other towns if Sandy struck directly at them from the ocean side as it did in Mantoloking, Brick, and others during Sandy. The flooding shown in your Ventnor photos was bay side flooding, not ocean front flooding.”

Asked to cite a storm that flooded Absecon Island from the ocean rather than the bay, the spokesman replied, “Not engaging in a guessing game with you.”

A Ventnor resident reports that the swampy patch shown above evaporated after a few days, though a part of town further toward Atlantic City still had a large amount of water behind the dunes as of Sunday, and the water was draining away from the ocean.

The Duneboggle raises important concerns about property rights, local governance, and 2016 presidential hopeful Christie’s attitude toward both. However, there are also practical matters of geography and science. New Jersey’s barrier islands are not hard land. They are essentially sandy promontories amid swampland, something non-shore-residents (or “shoobs” as they are called on Absecon Island) and recent arrivals, who experience the place as a care-free paradise, cannot fully appreciate. As recently as the 1970s, Margate was still prone to heavy infestations of mosquitoes and something worse: the greenhead horsefly (Tabanus nigrovittatus), a bloodsucking salt marsh pest whose population has happily diminished as development of the island has continued. But according to a report cited in Alfred Miller Heston’s Absegami: Annals of Eyren Haven and Atlantic City, 1609 to 1904, Absecon Island’s marshes and dunes in their natural state were so pestiferous that Jonathan Pitney’s original plan to establish Atlantic City as a spa resort collapsed:

So numerous were the mosquitoes and greenheads in August, 1858, that horses, covered with blood, laid down in the streets, and cattle waded out into the ocean to escape the torture. Children scratched and squalled from the poisonous stings on limbs and faces. Excursionists begged the conductors to start homeward ahead of schedule time. Men and women converted their handkerchiefs into masks for their faces and a smoking fire was built in front of every house. Before bed-time the windows and doors were opened, and a board placed on top of the chimney, and a dense smoke sent through every chamber, to drive out the mosquitoes. After the house had been thus thoroughly smoked, the board was removed and the people re-entered.

This reporter grew up in Margate but has not lived there for more than 20 years. I have experienced many types of nasty critters around the United States, including roach-sized ants, mouse-sized roaches, cat-sized rats, and even coyotes. I would take all of them over greenheads.

Tags: New Jersey , Chris Christie , Environmentalism

Michael Brown Protesters Have Shut Down More Traffic Than Chris Christie



Text  



While New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been apparently cleared by a Democratic investigation of the September 2013 closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, America’s white-line nightmare continues.

But, miraculously, the illegal closing of major highways and bridges by protesters from Southern California to New York City has so far failed to generate a rash of news stories about stalled ambulances, stranded seniors, and schoolchildren whose dreams of betterment were dashed by delayed school buses. If it weren’t for Tyree Landrum, the heroic San Diego County commuter widely described as “angry driver” in media reports after he objected to protesters who closed The 5 last week, you’d think the protests over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner are inconveniencing nobody.#ad#

In fact, Ferguson protesters continue to disrupt the free flow of private traffic. As of this writing, an airport terminal in Minneapolis is reportedly shut down by social-justice advocates, and the Twin Cities saw I-35 shut down yesterday.

In Denver, a driver Wednesday reportedly ran over four bicycle cops escorting a protest down a busy street, critically injuring one of the officers. By Sunday protests will have reached even Pittsfield, Mass., and organizations like Ferguson National Response Network are working to continue the wave.

Shutting down traffic from Washington state to Washington, D.C., falls within the tradition of civil disobedience — stuff for which you can get arrested but to which liberal societies usually allow wide latitude. And the specific form of street closures is evocative of the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death: He was killed by a police officer during a stop related to his walking down the middle of a street in Ferguson, Mo. But the Ferguson protests are undoubtedly disruptive of traffic — far more so than the Bridgegate non-scandal that convulsed much of the media in late 2013.

In fact, while Christie’s ostensible reason for closing lanes on the GWB — for tests of traffic flow under various circumstances — is less than compelling, those closures seem to be on much more solid legal ground than the Ferguson stops, which are overtly extralegal. So where are the mountains of casualties, the outrages to the nation, the offenses against civil order, that must logically be resulting from the Ferguson protests? If closing a couple lanes off a bridge shocks the conscience, why doesn’t shutting down all northbound traffic on the West Coast’s main interstate?

Though MSNBC devoted scores of hours of coverage to Bridgegate when it appeared Christie might have had prior knowledge of the lane closings — including a storied January evening when the Lean Forward network devoted more than five hours of its prime-time broadcast to the scandal — the channel’s coverage has been minimal since a state legislative committee headed by Democrats found no evidence that the potential 2016 presidential hopeful knew about the closings, nor that he masterminded the lethal traffic jam in an act of vengeance against the mayor of Fort Lee.

On Friday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, guest host Luke Russert wheeled in fellow MSNBC host Steve Kornacki for one minute and 58 seconds of coverage, during which Kornacki called the committee findings “frankly not a great surprise” and suggested Christie could still be guilty of “willful ignorance,” adding that there were “some indications” an investigation by a U.S. Attorney might find that “he could have figured this thing out sooner.” Russert and Kornacki also exchanged knowing laughs about the possibility that Christie might end benefiting by seeming to “take on the liberal media that was out to get him,” a stance they said might please Christie’s “conservative fans.”

“This all just came out,” a courteous MSNBC spokeswoman tells National Review Online when asked about the disparity in coverage. But in fact, Christie’s apparent non-involvement in the scandal has been known since September, when U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced that he had “uncovered no evidence indicating that [Christie] either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the span” — an announcement MSNBC’s website reported with the headline “Investigations around Christie administration continue.” MSNBC’s spokeswoman says the network will be giving substantial coverage to the end of Bridgegate in Friday’s prime-time broadcast. “This news cycle you’re talking about is from today,” she says. “We plan on covering it.”

Meanwhile the nightmare on our highways goes on, and Christie is still notably casual about the rights and property of New Jerseyans. It’s the kind of stuff that might be considered an outrage, if property, private commerce, or the right to move about a free nation unobstructed were what media phonies were actually concerned about.

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Tags: Chris Christie , MSNBC , Roads and Bridges , New Jersey , Ferguson Missouri , protests

New Jersey Democrats: Oh, Hey, Christie Wasn’t Involved in the Lane Closures



Text  



This will be the big story on MSNBC for the next three weeks, right?

A report summarizing a yearlong investigation by the legislative panel examining the George Washington Bridge lane closures found no evidence of Governor Christie’s involvement but concluded that two of his allies acted “with perceived impunity” when they gridlocked Fort Lee’s streets apparently for political reasons.

The committee’s 136-page report, drawing off sworn testimony, private interviews and thousands of subpoenaed documents, also highlights the unsuccessful efforts by a now-shuttered arm of Christie’s office to court the Fort Lee mayor’s endorsement, finding that the closures were “motivated in part by political considerations.”

The attorney who prepared the report for the state legislature was Reid Schar, a former U.S. Attorney who was the lead prosecutor in both corruption trials of former Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois.

The lane closure was indeed a scandal, and some may argue that the fact that Christie’s staffers acted so maliciously and with such impunity reflects badly on his administration and judgment in the people he hires and trusts. But whether you love Christie or hate him, it’s hard to dispute that most of the media — particularly MSNBC’s obsessive coverage — tore his reputation to shreds based upon the faulty assumption that Christie had a hand in the lane closures.

Of course, Ahab will keep chasing his . . . wait, that metaphor could be perceived as a slam at Christie. Let’s just point out that New Jersey assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, told CNN, “We are not done by any means.” He announced the beginning of his investigation of the matter back on October 2, 2013.

Tags: Chris Christie

War at the Shore: Margate 1, Chris Christie 1/2



Text  



The Absecon Island town of Margate won an extension Thursday of its restraining order against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s environmental apparatus. A U.S. district judge in Camden also suggested from the bench that Christie should give up efforts at summary seizure of the town’s beaches for his Duneboggle plan. The extension to December 17 makes it less likely that the state will meet its goal of completing contracts and digging up the beaches by January.

Although Christie’s scheme to build a statelong “wall” of dunes along the discontinuous Jersey shore is being challenged up and down the coast, Margate is to date the only municipality that has challenged the project, spurred by a widely popular 2013 ballot measure and a subsequent referendum in November authorizing the city to take the dunebuilders to court.#ad#

The town of about 8,400 year-round residents located about two miles south of Atlantic City argues that artificial dunes would ruin its beaches and that a citywide system of bulkheads has prevented catastrophic oceanside damage in all recorded storms, including 2012’s Sandy. Absecon Island has historically been more vulnerable to flooding from its landward bay — a vulnerability made especially clear during Sandy — yet Christie’s remediation plan (which is being imposed along the length of the Jersey Shore, a region that includes both the mainland beaches of the northern coast and the network of barrier islands and marshy bays down south) includes no efforts to beef up bayside protection.

According to observers in the court Thursday, United States district judge Renee Marie Bumb, in addition to extending the restraining order, suggested that Christie’s Department of Environmental Protection would be better off pursuing its efforts to seize Margate’s beaches through standard eminent-domain takings with compensation. Christie has been relying on a series of emergency orders aimed at “recalcitrant” property owners, which have led the DEP to pursue a novel legal theory that it can take control of the property through easements rather than condemnation and seizure, and that it can also seize the land prior to determining and paying fair market value to its owners.

As National Review Online reported in November, the flat town is fighting an uphill battle, but Margate appears to have been on solid legal ground in its Thursday court appearance. The defendants filed a 52-page response shortly before the scheduled hearing. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Amy S. Rosenberg, the state attorney general’s office then requested special permission from the court, arguing that any further delay would interfere with the state’s efforts to “properly protect its citizens from future catastrophes.”

The Army Corps’ schedule for the project includes a December 31 deadline for bids, making it unlikely that the state can begin digging up beaches and building dunes by its hoped-for January start date.

The legal filing by the Corps of Engineers and DEP was not available at publication time. In late November the city of Margate filed a 26-page petition, supported by several hundred pages of attachments. 

In a statement provided to National Review Online, the city of Margate’s law firm welcomed the decision.

“This morning, Judge Bumb approved an interim resolution of our litigation to stop the construction of dunes on the beaches of Margate,” attorneys for Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson LLP wrote. “We are very pleased with this result because it accomplishes our two objectives. First, the DEP and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) were strongly encouraged by the Judge to engage in good faith negotiations with the City of Margate over the nature and timing of the beach protection project. Second, there will be no contract awarded for construction of the dunes and no construction activity of any nature on our beaches while our negotiations proceed in the next few weeks.”

This reporter was born and raised in Margate.

Update: The Department of Environmental Protection, the Corps of Engineers and Gov. Christie’s office did not respond to requests for comment before and after publication. The defendants’ brief in the case is now available:

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Tags: New Jersey , Chris Christie , Environmentalism , Property Rights , Eminent Domain

Chris Christie, Victim of a Reckless, Partisan National Media



Text  



You may love Chris Christie, you may hate him. But wherever you are on the spectrum, you have to admit, he’s one of the biggest victims — er, no pun intended — of partisan agenda journalism in modern U.S. politics.

Will he get an apology from Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen?

And the consequences for MSNBC will be absolutely nothing. This is why people hate the media.

Tags: Chris Christie

Feds Find No Link Between Chris Christie and Bridge Shutdown, MSNBC Hardest Hit



Text  



After a nine-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice has found no information indicating New Jersey governor Chris Christie knew of or ordered the closing of lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

From NBC 4 New York:

Federal officials caution that the investigation begun nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that after nine months authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes .

According to one former federal prosecutor, who had no involvement in any of the probes into the bridge closure, investigations of this kind will often turn up a solid connection early in the inquiry.

“My experience with federal law enforcement is that once you reach critical mass if you don’t have it within nine months or so you’re not likely to ever get it,”  former federal prosecutor Robert W. Ray said.

New Jersey Democrats are still looking into any possible role the popular Republican governor may have played in the closure, which cast a shadow over Christie’s hopes for a 2016 presidential run.

The joke in the headline is stolen:

Tags: Chris Christie

What Happens if Christie Really Never Knew All Along?



Text  



From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

What Happens if Christie Really Never Knew All Along?

New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s knowing about the bridge lane closures and then giving that “I had no idea” press conference would suggest he was either a nut job or an extremely convincing liar. Having said that, most of us on the Right would not accept a Democratic governor’s investigating himself or an “internal investigation” or an investigation by allies. So a lot of folks, fairly or not, will dismiss this investigation.

Howard Kurtz:

The internal report exonerating Chris Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal was big enough news that the cable networks went live to the presser during or after President Obama talking about his meeting with Pope Francis.

. . . Let’s assume, for just a second, that the report was largely on target. It was headed by Randy Mastro, a former New York City deputy mayor, who knows that he will look like a dishonest hack if the federal and state investigations find that Christie was in fact involved in the lane closures.

But if Mastro’s central finding holds up — that Christie didn’t know of the bridge fiasco and wasn’t involved in any coverup — how does that change the national media clamor over the New Jersey governor?

What if all the speculation and breathless cable segments, especially on MSNBC, was wrong, and Christie’s denials (beginning at that marathon news conference) were truthful? Even on the charges of a Hurricane Sandy aid shakedown by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, whose account was branded “demonstrably false” by the investigators?

Can you be truly “cleared” after being roughed up in this modern media age? And if he was, would Christie be owed an apology?

Kurtz concludes, “it may be that Christie was innocent in a legal sense but will still pay a huge political price. That may be unfair, but no one ever said presidential politics was fair.” Yes, but notice that certain scandals never stick to certain other figures.

As Brittany Cohan notices this morning, “Today Show talking about Bridgegate. Nothing about gun running, FBI raids, bribery, illegal campaign spending, etc. Because they’re Dems.”

If you’re not familiar with the gun running reference, it refers to this . . . 

[California State Sen. Leland] Yee discussed helping the [undercover FBI] agent get weapons worth $500,000 to $2.5 million, including shoulder fired automatic weapons and missiles, and took him through the entire process of getting them from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines to the United States, according to the affidavit.

The New York Times greeted that news with a one paragraph summary on page A21 Wednesday with the headline: “California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.”

Tags: Chris Christie

Christie Hires Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for ‘Internal Review’



Text  



Chris Christie’s office announced this morning that they are hiring a former assistant U.S. Attorney to “assist with the internal review and cooperate with the U.S. Attorney inquiry.”

Today, the Christie Administration announced the retention of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to assist with the internal review announced by Governor Christie last week and to further cooperate with the U.S. Attorney inquiry. As part of the review process, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP will review best practices for office operations and information flow, and assist with document retention and production.

“Governor Christie made clear last week that he will conduct an internal review to uncover the facts surrounding the lane closures in Fort Lee. His Administration is fully cooperating with the U.S. Attorney inquiry and other appropriate inquiries and requests for information. To assist in conducting that internal review and furthering that cooperation, the Christie Administration is announcing today that Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP has been retained as outside counsel. Their presence will bring an outside, third-party perspective to the situation, and they will be a valuable asset as we move forward. This Administration is committed to ensuring that what happened here never happens again. That’s what the people of New Jersey deserve.”

Heading up the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP team is former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro. Mastro is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he specialized in organized crime cases and spearheaded the federal government’s landmark racketeering suit that compelled the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to hold democratic elections and to undergo court supervision. Mastro also served as former Deputy Mayor of New York City.

Here’s an interesting irony. The current U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is Paul Fishman, who as a defense attorney represented . . . Carla Katz, former union boss and former girlfriend of Christie’s predecessor, Governor Jon Corzine.

Tags: Chris Christie

HUD IG: No, This Isn’t a ‘Full-Scale Investigation’ into Christie



Text  



Remember this blockbuster news from Representative Frank Pallone (D., N.J.), that the inspector general of HUD was investigating Chris Christie for his “Stronger Than the Storm” ads? “On Sunday, Pallone told CNN that the inspector general conducted a preliminary review and concluded there was enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation into the state’s use of federal funds.”

The only problem is that it’s not true, according to a statement from HUD’s inspector general issued late yesterday:

On August 8, 2013, this office received a request from Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., regarding the State of New Jersey’s Post-Hurricane Sandy Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan. Audits of Federal expenditures of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including disaster-related activities, are something that this office does routinely. The Department granted a waiver to allow the State to use $25 million of its award on a marketing campaign to promote the Jersey Shore and encourage tourism. An audit was initiated in September 2013 to examine whether the State administered its Tourism Marketing Program in accordance with applicable departmental and Federal requirements. This is an audit and not an investigation of the procurement process. We expect to issue our audit report expeditiously. We will have no further comment until the audit report is issued.

A central point of Pallone’s accusation is that the Christie administration picked one advertising agency over another because one would feature the governor in the tourism ads, and the other didn’t. But that accusation doesn’t appear to hold up, at least according to the written proposal for the ads:

“Given widely inaccurate reporting on Stronger than the Storm, we welcome the Inspector General’s report,” the firm shot back in a statement. “It will show that MWW’s proposal included no mention or suggestion of using the governor in the paid advertising campaign. The decision to include the governor was arrived at after the contract was awarded, based on timing, availability, and federal expenditure rules.”

Springsteen and Bon Jovi were on tour and the deadline was tight, among other reasons, so the public relations firm turned to the Republican governor after winning the bid, according to Josh Zeitz, a senior vice president at MWW.

And Christie was not included in a list of New Jersey “icons” featured in the 205-page ad proposal from MWW, according to a copy reviewed by POLITICO.

CNN, which originally reported Pallone’s accusation, noted the HUD IG’s clarification that it was not investigating the procurement process . . . in the eleventh paragraph of its story.

Tags: Chris Christie , HUD , Frank Pallone

Christie Administration: Oh, by the Way, HUD Took Seven Weeks to Respond to Our Request on Sandy Aid



Text  



Yesterday, Representative Frank Pallone (D., N.J.) announced that the inspector general of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development would be launching a “full investigation” of how the administration of Chris Christie used federal disaster-relief funds, four and a half months after Pallone complained about tourism-promotion commercials that featured Christie.

Today, in advance of Christie’s State of the State address, the governor’s office announced it is dedicating an additional $145 million of existing federal recovery funds to two Sandy housing recovery programs. The release says the transfer of funds will allow “1,000 Sandy-impacted homeowners to move off of the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program waitlist and more than 1,200 storm-affected families to move off of the Homeowner Resettlement waitlist.”

Deep in the press release is this point:

In light of the significant waiting list for housing recovery programs and an analysis of the State’s business and housing recovery needs, the Christie Administration sought and received the federal government’s approval to transfer $160 million of the federal Sandy recovery funds designated for Grants and Forgivable Loans to Small Businesses to the above-named programs.

After a 14-day public comment period, the Christie Administration submitted the substantial amendment on November 22, 2013 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for its review. HUD approved the amendment today. [bold mine]

The New Jersey Disaster Recovery Action Plan, which was approved April 29, 2013, details how the State is distributing the $1,829,520,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds to help homeowners, renters, businesses and communities impacted by Sandy.

Do you detect a certain tone in the Christie administration’s mention that they submitted the proposal back in late November, and are only getting approval today, seven weeks later? As if they might have a complaint themselves with HUD, and how quickly they’re responding to their requests regarding this aid?

Part of Pallone’s complaint from yesterday: “Even today we have a lot of people in my district and throughout the state who still have not received the funding to help restore or rebuild their home.”

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Christie discussing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, at the Governor’s Office in Newark, N.J., Nov. 16, 2012.

Tags: Chris Christie , HUD

Blocking Access to a Bridge Is the Worst Act Ever, Right?



Text  



If there’s anything we’ve learned from the media’s round-the-clock, week-long coverage of Bridgemageddon, it’s that limiting access to a bridge is one of the worst crimes imaginable, right?

The above video shows when Occupy Wall Street blocked access to the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011:

In a tense showdown above the East River, the police arrested more than 700 demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street protests who took to the roadway as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

The police said it was the marchers’ choice that led to the enforcement action.

“Protesters who used the Brooklyn Bridge walkway were not arrested,” Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York Police Department, said. “Those who took over the Brooklyn-bound roadway, and impeded vehicle traffic, were arrested.”

Actually, government officials’ limiting access to a bridge over personal pique or a political grudge is a serious scandal, and worthy of investigation. The firings are justified, and the New Jersey state legislature is entirely within its rights to get to the bottom of it. But the national media is offering an obsessive level of coverage not because the crime is so horrific, because the bridge access-limiting may or may not involve a big-name Republican governor who had been perceived as a strong contender for the GOP presidential nomination. When Occupy blocks access to the most iconic American bridge, it’s not even a blip on the national news. With Christie, we’re in the seventh day of intense, coast-to-coast discussion and speculation.

Thanks to Nathan Wurtzel for remembering that other obstruction of bridge access in the New York City area.

Tags: Chris Christie , Occupy Wall Street

Christie’s Spokesman: ‘Stronger Than the Storm’ Approved by Obama Administration



Text  



Governor Chris Christie’s deputy communications director, Colin Reed, issues a statement about the “Stronger Than the Storm” campaign that . . . er, cites the Campaign Spot:

Good Morning –

If you’re reporting on the “conveniently-timed announcement” from Congressman Pallone this morning, please see the following on-the-record response from me:

“The Stronger Than The Storm campaign was just one part of the first action plan approved by the Obama Administration and developed with the goal of effectively communicating that the Jersey Shore was open for business during the first summer after Sandy. Federal agency reviews are routine and standard operating procedure with all federally allocated resources to ensure that funds are distributed fairly. We’re confident that any review will show that the ads were a key part in helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history.”

Attached for your background is the relevant section of the Action Plan showing what the Obama Administration approved in connection with the tourism marketing campaign.

Further, the effectiveness of the ad campaign has already been praised by the Obama Administration at a Senate hearing last November:

In November 2013, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Said These Campaigns “Are Effective In Growing Economic Development In Those Areas And Therefore They Actually Reduce The Cost Of Recovery To The Federal Government”

SECRETARY SHAUN DONOVAN: “. . . There has been an effort in a number of states, not just in Sandy, but historically as well in many, many prior storms to encourage economic development and we did see a small amount of CDBG money that was used for an economic development campaign to encourage people back to the beaches. . . . The evidence that we have seen is that those campaigns are effective in growing economic development in those areas and therefore they actually reduce the cost of recovery to the federal government. . . . The Community Development Block Grant is a very flexible program. This is clearly within the legal boundaries of what Congress has determined the program can be used for and it was demonstrated to us that this could be an effective tool and actually lower the cost to the federal government.” (Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Subcommittee Hearing on Hurricane Sandy, 11/6/13)

New Jersey Voters And Business Leaders Also Praised The Ad Campaign

63 Percent Of New Jerseyans Believe It Is Appropriate For The Governor To Appear In The Stronger Than The Storm Ads. (Monmouth University Poll, 8/21/13)

Robert Hilton, Executive Director Of The Jersey Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau: “It’s good that we have the campaign. We have a message and it’s strong, and people will see that we’re open for business after Sandy despite what they’ve believed,” said Hilton, who added that featuring Christie will help draw tourists because “his popularity is going to help us.” (Bob Jordan, “N.J. governor gets star billing in state’s tourism ads,” Asbury Park Press, 5/20/13)

The Associated Press: “Tourism promoters say the state’s advertising campaign to let people know the Jersey shore was open for business this year was good. . . . Numerous tourism officials all said they liked New Jersey’s ‘Stronger Than The Storm’ ads, featuring Gov. Chris Christie. . . . The tourism promoters did not blame the state for starting the ads too late. But they did say a new campaign needs to be rolled out as soon as possible.” (Wayne Parry, “Marketers: NJ post-Sandy ads good but too late,” Associated Press, 12/12/13)

Finally, Jim Geraghty over at NRO notes the interesting timing of this whole incident:

Could somebody please mention this to that ninny who spent last week insisting I was on a crusade to destroy Christie on behalf of Ted Cruz?

UPDATE: Representative Frank Pallone responds:

Pallone dismissed the assertions of a Christie spokesman that the announcement about the inquiry was “conveniently-timed,” an apparent reference to the revelations that one of the governor’s top aides was involved in a conspiracy to close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge for what appears to have been political purposes. The congressman said he was informed of the audit in recent days and said there was “no correlation” between the two subjects.

To clarify, the HUD inspector general is asked to investigate back in August . . . four months pass . . . the HUD IG informs Pallone that the investigation will go forward “in recent days” as the bridge controversy dominates national news, and Pallone concludes that means there’s “no correlation”?

Tags: Chris Christie , HUD , Obama Administration

A Conveniently Timed Announcement from HUD About Christie



Text  



The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development leaks word of investigations with amazingly convenient timing.

May 2013: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family are starring in television commercials that are part of a publicly funded $25 million tourism campaign to encourage people to visit the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy, but Democrats say they are simply taxpayer-funded campaign ads.”

You can see one of the ads featuring Christie here:

August 2013: Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat who ran for Senate last year, calls for “an investigation into the contract and bidding process used by Governor Chris Christie for the marketing campaign to promote the Jersey Shore and encourage tourism.”

The public hears little about any investigation for a long while. In November, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) took a jab at the ads in a Senate hearing, declaring, “when people who are trying to do good and trying to use taxpayer dollars wisely they are offended to see our money spent on political ads. You know that’s just offensive.”

Last week: Christie gets embroiled in the controversy over the closing of access lanes to the bridge.

Yesterday: “Pallone told CNN that the inspector general conducted a preliminary review of the spending and concluded that there was enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation into the state’s use of federal funds. The audit will take several months, and the findings will be issued in an official report, he said. Pallone, a 27-year veteran of the House and vocal Christie critic, said this is not about politics.”

Amazing that the inspector general’s investigation leaks now, generating the headline “Feds investigating Christie’s use of Sandy relief funds” when the governor is at his lowest point, no?

UPDATE: Louise Mensch reminds us of the “California: Find Yourself Here” ads, featuring then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the tourism-promotion video produced by the U.S. State Department in May 2012 that featured portions of a speech by President Obama:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Louise Mensch finds another classic of the genre, from one of Christie’s predecessors:

One can argue that a governor or other elected official appearing in tourism ads represents a form of backdoor political advertising for incumbents, and ought to be discouraged as an unfair or unwise use of taxpayer dollars. But you can’t argue that Christie’s use is uniquely scandalous, and it seems a little convenient for an administration’s inspector general to suddenly treat it as potentially criminal now.

Tags: Chris Christie , HUD

‘Bridgemageddon,’ and the Lost Art of Taking Our Time



Text  



The first Morning Jolt of the week spotlights another big roundup of bad news for the Obamacare rollout and its new enrollees — the kind of news Obamacare fans would prefer to ignore — and then this note about the media’s sudden obsession with BRIDGEMAGEDDON, and what it says about our politics . . . 

The Lost Art of Taking Our Time

So why did the national press decide that BRIDGEMAGEDDON will dominate several news cycles? How much time will we spend discussing toll routes and foul-mouthed e-mails this week, compared to, say, Afghanistan, or long-term unemployment?

Christie is getting covered like he’s a presidential candidate because the national press has decided he is a presidential candidate, even though any official announcement from Christie is probably a year away. Big, national, horse-race coverage is now a staple of journalism large and small, and the beast commands you to feed it. Those hours of cable news aren’t going to fill themselves.

(Reader: “Hey, am I reading a complaint about horse-race coverage from the guy who writes ‘The Campaign Spot’?” Well, yeah, but the point of my blog — on its better days, at least — is that there’s always somebody running for something — governor, Senate, House races, special elections as lawmakers die in office or resign, etc. Campaign Spot doesn’t cover everything, but I hope it manages to provide decent coverage beyond the presidential cycles. Besides, by the time somebody’s running for president, they’ve been covered and profiled to death. On good days, this results in profiles of Marco Rubio back in August 2009, concluding “the smart money might be on Rubio” in a primary against Crist.)

James Poulos packs a lot of wisdom into just a few paragraphs, noting that the relentless pace of coverage is eating away at a once-natural process of leaders building confidence and winning trust:

This isn’t about “conservatism” versus “liberalism.” It’s about the moderate tempo at which our institutions of governance need to move in order not to malfunction. As Greg Weiner explains in the overlooked study Madison’s Metronome, our constitutional architecture is premised on the moral axiom that impulsive impatience breeds misrule. Rather than the anti-majoritarian fetish it is often mistaken for, “temporal republicanism,” as Weiner calls it, simply intends to slow the pace of democratic decision-making to more deliberate — get it? — speeds.

Sadly today we hate that idea. Hate it. Everything else moves at the speed of light, why not politics? Because racism! Or classism, or old boy networks, or fat cats, or the corrupting influence of money on politics — anything answer will do, including correct answers, so long as they elbow out the one scandalous truth: a democracy conducted at light speed will twist our judgments and disfigure our justice. It will give us a government of weapons that kill instantly anywhere, computers that know everything everywhere, and money that can be printed at whim in any quantity . . . 

Why do we suffer such a lack of confidence in our private and public-sector elites? In our big State and our big Market? “For a reason of biblical simplicity,” writes philosopher and urbanist Paul Virilio, “confidence can never be instantaneous. It must be built, earned, over time. Instant confidence, like instant faith, doesn’t work.”

It’s early. We don’t know what the world is going to look like in January 2016, when Iowa holds its caucuses, much less January 2017, when the next president will take office.

The real mission for the next American president may be to persuade us that we can be Americans again. Not this easily distracted, cynical, tuned-out, Balkanizing mob that hobbles along with an economy that hits 3 percent growth at the best of times, is growing acclimated to slogging along in a waist-deep bureaucratic morass, and endures a public discourse that alternates among the nasty, inane, and petty, punctuated by perpetual cycles of offensiveness and grievances of the offended. We deserve better than a government that falters and flails in the face of drug cartels and gang violence but that can come down like a ton of bricks on big sodas and incandescent light bulbs. The history of this nation was driven by those who overcame the siren call of acquiescence, the anti-rallying cry of, “What’s the use?”

Humans are hope-fueled creatures. Anybody who gets up out of bed with a spring in his step does so because he’s got some hope that the next day might be better than the last. Obama’s 2008 campaign tapped into this with remarkable power (and an enthusiastically helpful press). But then again, so did the Tea Party, in its own way. Entrepreneurs, pro athletes — everybody starts by “envisioning a compelling future,” as Tony Robbins, Oprah, and all the lifestyle coaches put it. Hell, even jihadists think that someday they’re going to reinstate the Caliphate and everybody on the planet will think the way they do or be dead.

The Left probably has an advantage here, as their core philosophy is “yes, we can” build utopia, and our core philosophy is, “no, you can’t, and you’ll do a lot of damage trying.”

Tags: Chris Christie , Media , Barack Obama , Conservatism

Tune in Tonight!



Text  



I’ll be joining the panel on Greta Van Susteren’s On the Record on Fox News this evening. We’ll be discussing the contrast between how Chris Christie and Barack Obama handle scandals, and the news that the Obama administration is letting CGI Federal’s contract to handle the Healthcare.gov site expire, and turning the job over to Accenture.

Of course, some may see the departure of CGI Federal as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. They’ve already collected $93 million on the expiring contract to build Healthcare.gov.

CGI had some serious problems on earlier government tech projects up in Canada. Vermont and Massachusetts are also threatening to withhold future payments and discussing an attempt to get a refund. CGI also did contracting work on the state exchanges in Hawaii and Colorado.

Hope you can tune in.

Tags: Obamacare , CGI Federal , Chris Christie , Barack Obama

Where Does Chris Christie Go from Here?



Text  



From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Where Does Chris Christie Go from Here?

This just handed to me: Chris Christie’s press conference is still going on.

Okay, not really. And large swaths of it seemed to hit just the right notes of sincerity, embarrassment, contrition and outrage of the actions of the governor’s aides. But . . . we’re left with a guy who had not one bad apple, but several, doing terrible things — that theses bad apples must have believed served Christie’s purposes, or else they’re psychotic saboteurs — and Christie being oblivious to it all. Christie may not be the villain here, but he’s not the hero — and every once in a while Thursday, he seemed a little too focused upon his victimization by his staff. No, the real victims are those Fort Lee commuters and the kids stuck on school buses.

Here’s Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn, discussing the consequences:

Mark Steyn: . . . A woman died because the ambulance couldn’t get to her in time, and so she’s dead. And so for me, the important question is not whether Chris Christie can do sufficient damage control to position himself well for the New Hampshire primary or whatever, but how we can stop political staffers from being so myopic in their view of what their job is that they wind up killing American citizens, because when American political staffers are essentially jerking the citizenry around to the point of death, then I think that’s the larger problem.

Hugh Hewitt: Well, that does connect us up to Benghazi, but I don’t think it’s been established, yet, Mark, that she would have lived but for the G.W. closure. I mean, if that’s the case, even the crazy Ashleigh Banfield, who was talking about felony murder today, I mean, way, way out ahead of the story, would be justified.

Mark Steyn: No, no, no, no. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about prosecuting the deputy chief of staff for felony murder or manslaughter or whatever. But I’m simply saying, you know New York/New Jersey. I was in Manhattan, I think it was last year, for the paperback launch of After America, and we were doing a television interview in New Jersey. So the car comes, and it takes two hours to get me to a studio just across the river in New Jersey. At the best of times, a New York–New Jersey commute involving a bridge or tunnel is not a great thing. So to have political staffers actually making it worse for political reasons gets to the heart of what’s wrong, what’s so upside down about politics in this country, and just to back to, you know, it hasn’t been definitively confirmed that she would have lived if they had got to her, in other words, you’re saying that by delaying the ambulance getting to her, it doesn’t, that did not necessarily prove the fatal part of whatever happened to this woman. That’s the wrong way to look at it. These people are supposed to be making the bridge from New York to New Jersey better. That’s why there’s government. That’s the point of government. Government isn’t there for private score settling. Government is supposed to do those things that only government can do, like arranging a transportation system between two states that makes it possible for an ambulance to get to a sick woman in time.

Hugh Hewitt: This, I agree with.

Rick Wilson: “The Acela Republican will always be betrayed by the people who create the Acela Republican.”

But Michael Graham walks away from Christie’s press conference thoroughly impressed:

Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire are unlikely to lose any sleep over the idea of a nominee whose staff enjoys making New Jersey Democrats unhappy.

“I don’t want a Republican ‘Tony Soprano’ who plays rough,” said no GOP primary voter ever.

The liberal media’s desperation to take Christie down just drives up his approval among conservatives. Democrat attacks on Christie merely give Republicans the chance to mock the left for being more outraged over two lanes of traffic than over four dead Americans in Benghazi.

Christie has been given two gifts: The opportunity to look presidential (Hurricane Sandy) and the opportunity to show how he handles mistakes. Assuming his lengthy litany of specifics yesterday about his involvement (or lack thereof) in “Bridge-Gate” was accurate, he’s handled both well.

The story certainly isn’t over yet. But if the facts are as presented, then what we saw yesterday was that rarest of creatures: A Republican politician who is good at politics.

You’ll hear a lot of arguments about whether Christie helped set up a culture within his administration that encouraged this. It’s a perfectly fair question — but his critics over on the other side of the aisle ought to acknowledge the culture that cultivated the IRS abuses, the dishonesty about the Obamacare promises, the culture at the State Department that ignored the warnings about Benghazi, the culture at the Justice Department during Fast & Furious, the culture of accountability and wise fiscal management at the General Services Administration and its conferences . . . 

Mollie Hemingway makes perhaps the best lesson of this mess:

Abuse of power is a completely expected result of government authority. That goes triple for Chicago, New Jersey and the federal government. It’s not our fault. As Samuel Johnson’s Imlac said in “Rasselas,” “No form of government has yet been discovered by which cruelty can be wholly prevented. Subordination supposes power on the one part, and subjection on the other, and if power be in the hands of men, it will sometimes be abused.”

Knowing that essentially all men having power ought to be mistrusted, this leaves us with no other option but to restrain politicians’ ability to make our lives nightmares. Mostly this means restraining our government. Anything that government touches, it can use against us in ways large and small. Perhaps we’d do a better job of keeping politicians in line if the size and scope of government wasn’t so expansive.

It also means demanding transparency over government actions. We know about these conversations out of New Jersey because Democratic lawmakers there subpoenaed the documents. It would be nice to have the conversations that led to the shuttering of the WWII Memorial or the IRS’ actions against political opponents, but our federal government is taking its sweet time responding to Freedom of Information Act and Congressional requests on these.

To me, the real key of whether Republicans should give Christie serious consideration for the 2016 nomination is what he does with all this popularity he’s accumulated. What does he want to do, and what can he accomplish, in that second term? Is he just waiting around until he can kick off the presidential campaign? Or will he be able to enact reforms that the rest of America would want to see enacted on the national scale?

Tags: Chris Christie

Christie: ‘I am responsible for what happens under my watch.’



Text  



The key headlines coming out of Chris Christie’s press conference:

• Christie declared that his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, lied to him about the bridge closure, allowed him to go out and give false denials to the public, and that he fired her by 9 a.m. this morning. (The recipient of Kelly’s “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” message, David Wildstein, resigned in December.)

• Christie declared he was “disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude, callous indifference, that was displayed in emails by my former campaign manager,” Bill Stepien, and said he has instructed Stepien to remove his name from the running to be chairman of the state’s Republican party and has also asked him to step down from his consultancy role with the Republican Governors Association.

• Christie says he will travel to Fort Lee, apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich face to face, and apologize to the people of Fort Lee.

• Christie says he and his administration will cooperate with state investigations of the decisions leading to the road closure.

Large stretches of Christie’s press conference made for a textbook example of authentic, emphatic expressions of contrition, including a raw, refreshing bluntness about his long ties to the aides in question, and direct, quick action to ensure consequences for wrongdoing. But there was a somewhat troubling aspect in that Christie remained to insist that not one but several members of his team behaved in reprehensible manner, abused the state’s authority, and were willing to lie to him about it. He may not have known about their actions, and may have been left in the dark the whole time . . . but he apparently has terrible judgment in who he hires and trusts.

Tags: Chris Christie

Fort Lee Mayor Says Christie’s Story Lacks Credibility



Text  



Fort Lee, N.J., mayor Mark Sokolich told me on last night’s Kudlow Report that New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s statement regarding the politically motivated closure incident at the George Washington Bridge lacks credibility. Here’s the video of my conversation with Sokolich, as well as a report on the interview by CNBC’s Ross LeClair.

Fort Lee Mayor: Holes in Christie’s Story

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he was unaware of the decision to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September that gridlocked traffic in a town run by a Democratic mayor.

The governor, who is contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination, made the statement after the release Wednesday of communications that provide more evidence that his office planned the closures, apparently because Fort Lee’s mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that Christie’s statement issued after the release of the emails lacks credibility.

“There’s definitely, I think, some holes in that statement,” Sokolich said. “The governor had convened a meeting with his top staff not too long ago, and promptly after the meeting proclaimed that no one on his staff knew about it.”

Sokolich added that he was personally making phone calls after the traffic jam in an attempt to get answers from the Port Authority as to when and why the closures were planned.

“I think we’re documented 20 calls during that four-day period, I can assure you it was a lot more than that,” Sokolich said. “You may rest assured that the excuse that ‘Yeah I missed your call, sorry about that’ isn’t plausible.”

Despite his anger, Sokolich does not want the governor to apologize to him. He says the apology is better directed at the people who were impacted by the traffic jam.

“If calls are going to be made, call the families that waited two to three times longer for an ambulance to arrive while their loved one was clutching their chest because of chest pains,” Sokolich said. “Call the thousands of parents that couldn’t get their kids to school on time on the first day of school and the three or four days thereafter.”

In his statement Wednesday, Christie said: “What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”

Ultimately, Sokolich says his job is to protect the people of Fort Lee, not to speculate about Christie.

“I’m not rooting for him to have known about it,” he said. “My job is to worry about Fort Lee.”

Tags: Chris Christie

Fort Lee Mayor Says Christie’s Story Lacks Credibility



Text  



Fort Lee, N.J., mayor Mark Sokolich told me on last night’s Kudlow Report that New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s statement regarding the politically motivated closure incident at the George Washington Bridge lacks credibility. Here’s the video of my conversation with Sokolich, as well as a report on the interview by CNBC’s Ross LeClair.

Fort Lee Mayor: Holes in Christie’s Story

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he was unaware of the decision to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September that gridlocked traffic in a town run by a Democratic mayor.

The governor, who is contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination, made the statement after the release Wednesday of communications that provide more evidence that his office planned the closures, apparently because Fort Lee’s mayor did not endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that Christie’s statement issued after the release of the emails lacks credibility.

“There’s definitely, I think, some holes in that statement,” Sokolich said. “The governor had convened a meeting with his top staff not too long ago, and promptly after the meeting proclaimed that no one on his staff knew about it.”

Sokolich added that he was personally making phone calls after the traffic jam in an attempt to get answers from the Port Authority as to when and why the closures were planned.

“I think we’re documented 20 calls during that four-day period, I can assure you it was a lot more than that,” Sokolich said. “You may rest assured that the excuse that ‘Yeah I missed your call, sorry about that’ isn’t plausible.”

Despite his anger, Sokolich does not want the governor to apologize to him. He says the apology is better directed at the people who were impacted by the traffic jam.

“If calls are going to be made, call the families that waited two to three times longer for an ambulance to arrive while their loved one was clutching their chest because of chest pains,” Sokolich said. “Call the thousands of parents that couldn’t get their kids to school on time on the first day of school and the three or four days thereafter.”

In his statement Wednesday, Christie said: “What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.”

Ultimately, Sokolich says his job is to protect the people of Fort Lee, not to speculate about Christie.

“I’m not rooting for him to have known about it,” he said. “My job is to worry about Fort Lee.”

Tags: Chris Christie

Christie: ‘I am outraged and deeply saddened . . . I was misled.’



Text  



Governor Chris Christie today issued the following statement:

What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.

Christie’s comments in early December, when questions about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge arose, were . . . quite different in tone, joking, “I worked the cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones. . . . Just because [Democratic state legislators] John Wisniewski and Loretta Weinberg are obsessed with this . . . it just shows you they really have nothing to do.”

Tags: Chris Christie

Pages

Subscribe to National Review