Open season on Chris Christie: New Jersey governor facing investigation into possible misspending of federal aid earmarked for victims of 2012's Super-Storm Sandy

Claims his office accepted a $4.7 bid for TV ads declaring the Jersey Shore open for business that involved his participation rather than a $2.5 million alternative that would not have cast him

The tribulations of Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey hit by revelations of allegedly politically motivated lane closures onto the George Washington Bridge, are multiplying amid separate questions about possible misspending of federal aid earmarked for victims of Super-Storm Sandy in 2012.

Already reeling from the ‘bridgegate’ allegations, Mr Christie was on the defensive again after it emerged that a federal agency is investigating whether money was improperly spent on advertisements promoting New Jersey tourism that featured him and his family as he was preparing to run for re-election as governor.

The probe, launched by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, appears to be focused on why the governor’s office accepted a $4.7 bid for TV spots declaring the Jersey Shore open for business that involved his prominent participation rather than a $2.5 million alternative that would not have cast him.

“This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery. And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven’t gotten the money that is owed them to rebuild their homes or raise their homes or to help,” Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democratic in the US House of Representatives, told CNN.

Democrat gripes about the ads have been circulating for months and in normal times they might have drawn scant attention. Now they will serve to compound a growing and damaging impression that Mr Christie, known for his swagger, has somehow conducted himself as if he were above the law. Just days after the bridge affair exploded into the headlines, it is clear that for now it is open season on him.

All this at a time when Mr Christie, who recaptured his governorship last November in a landside, should have been consolidating his image as a shoo-in for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Instead, both his annual state of the state address scheduled for Tuesday and his second-term inauguration set for next week will now be eclipsed by what has become a serious outbreak of political pox.

The bridge affair had also been simmering for months. Then last week emails and text messages made public that had been exchanged between top aides and appointees seemed to make clear that the closure over three days last September off two lanes from Fort Lee onto the world’s busiest bridge had been ordered as part of an attempt to punish that town’s mayor for not endorsing Christie for re-election.

Mr Christie responded by firing two of the aides involved and insisting that he had had no idea what they had been up to and that they had bare-faced lied to him insisting that the closures were part of a traffic management study. His assertion that he was clueless has, however, been met with assorted levels of scepticism even among some of his Republican friends.

The spasms unleashed by the revelations are surely far from over and could quickly swallow Mr Christie should any evidence emerge contradicting his claims of ignorance. An investigating committee led by Democrats in the state’s legislative assembly in Trenton, the state capital, is preparing to issue new subpoenas to question witnesses in the case. Mr Christie could be one of those ordered to testify.

The TV ads that are now at issue were part of a Jersey is ‘Stronger than the Storm’ campaign that included vignettes of Christie, his wife and children at the Jersey Shore sunnily declaring it open for tourism business again just months after Sandy caused widespread destruction throughout the area in October 2012. 

“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,” Christie spokesman Colin Reed said.

While Mr Christie was characteristically vigorous in his bridgegate denials last week, many commentators noted that in the course of a nearly two-hour press conference, he managed to speak repeatedly about himself and almost not at all about the thousands of New Jersey commuters who were delayed or otherwise hurt by the massive snarl-ups caused by the lane closures. That has itself helped feed the narrative that as well as being a bully in office he also has an unfailing knack for narcissism.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory