Sunday, February 02, 2014

More Christie-ness

This is a grab-bag of stuff, compiled rapidly...

The Hoboken thing. Brian Murphy, writing in TPM...
This morning on his MSNBC show Steve Kornacki discussed reporting he and I (and producer Jack Bohrer) did showing that those federal Hurricane Sandy funds have not been monitored by the Christie Administration as required by a law that Christie himself signed last March. Furthermore, relief funds have been extremely hard to account for because Christie vetoed a bill that would have created a single website to track Sandy funding and contract information. Based on the reactions of two congressmen who watched the report with me, officials in Washington will be loath to trust Christie with the next round of federal funds and we should not be surprised if an investigation is on the horizon.
Sounds to me like the problem could go way beyond Hoboken.

The bridge thing. Also from Murphy:
Yet there’s a reason David Wildstein is seeking legal immunity and reimbursement for his legal bills: the order to close those lanes – the motive – seems to have come from Trenton.

And here we get to the heart of the matter. David Wildstein was put in the Port Authority by Chris Christie, in a job Christie invented, to be the governor’s eyes and ears – his enforcer. Wildstein was put at the Port so Christie could more effectively use the Port as an extension of his political operation (as Steve and I are documenting, more and more, with each passing week).

So spare us the shock that Wildstein is “a political animal.” Christie knew who Wildstein was before he appointed him to this job. There is no sense in distancing yourself from one of your own appointees who was given a job specifically because his skills matched what you were looking to accomplish with that appointment.
The Wally Edge thing: Murphy goes on to discuss Wildstein's alter-ego, NJ blogger "Wally Edge." (Wildstein "came out" as Edge in 2010; before then, it was all a big secret.) Christie now seems to think that working as an anonymous blogger is a bad, bad thing. But Murphy, who worked for Edge (without knowing his real identity) says that Christie once had a different view...
Almost everyone leaks in political reporting, but some of my biggest scoops came from leaks from Christie’s office, either to Wally or to both of us.

And Chris Christie loved the product of our work.
I'd like to know more about Wildstein's blogging career, if only because I know how rare it is to make actual money as a blogger. His former site, PolitickerNJ, is part of the NY Observer website. So the Observer knew all along.

The personal thing. The Daily Beast has published a piece claiming that Wildstein is a scorned Christie groupie:
What would sting any groupie most would be a disavowal by the adored one that there was any connection between them, most particularly if the adoration goes all the way back to when they were in the same high school...
And the hurt must have been compounded by word that the Port Authority was still considering whether to pay the legal expenses for the executive who was forced so resign along with him, his former boss and Christie appointee, William Baroni.
Getting to the heart of the matter:
For Wildstein’s lawyer, the immediate reason for the letter clearly was to persuade the Port Authority to reverse itself regarding his client’s legal fees. Section XI of the agency’s bylaws does state that the agency “shall provide for the defense of the indemnified party in any civil action or proceeding in any state or federal court arising out of any alleged act or omission which occurred or is alleged in the complaint to have occurred while the individual was acting within the scope of Port Authority employment or duties.”

But saying in the letter that the lane closings were done upon “the Christie administration’s order” does not make that order any more legitimate or any more within the within the rightful scope of Wildstein’s job.

And pointing out that numerous Port Authority officials have ties to Christie does not make Wildstein any more eligible to have his legal bills paid.
If I understand this aright, the implication is that the letter resulted from personal animus. Wildstein feels betrayed. It's personal.

But the letter was written by Wildstein's lawyer. Lawyers are not paid to display fits of anger and resentment. Lawyers are supposed to play it cool.

It's more likely, then, that the real purpose for the letter was not to get reimbursement (how could Wildstein expect to get money after that letter?) and not simply to express anger. The purpose is to get immunity. Wildstein is signalling that he knows something -- something big.

But immunity deals are preceded by proffers, which means that no deal will be struck unless prosecutors know what they are getting in return.

A false charge of Christie's complicity simply would not suffice. Wildstein can't get an immunity deal just by dangling a carrot: He actually has to have something.

The development thing. Who could have told Baroni to lie? David Samson of the Rockefeller Group seems a likely possibility. He ran the Port Authority and he is close to Christie. Do the bridge scandal and the Hoboken scandal have a point of convergence? Expensive redevelopment deals may be at the heart of both affairs.

In the case of the GW Bridge, the issue may have been the Hudson Lights project. That, of course, has been the Kornacki/Murphy theory. The Rockefeller Group has cut any and all ties to Samson's law firm.

Ominous. Maybe the Rockefeller Group has reason to worry about what might come out if Wildstein gets immunity. 


Alessandro Machi said...

What was Christie doing during those four days. And, when was his schedule set up for those four days?

Would be interesting to see how Christie's day planner looked for the week of bridgegate in the weeks preceding. Was any activity or visit that would have taken Christie near BridgeGate purposely not scheduled, or rescheduled?

A comparision of itinerary over the preceding several months, would it show a scheduling blip over the week of Bridge Gate?

Michael said...

"the development thing"

Bingo. And maybe Wildtein's lawyer's letter is really a message to Samson. Wildstein can tie the closing to Christie. Maybe Samson is thinking, "...and then to ME."

Michael said...

When Kornacke reported on the Hudson Lights project, he said that there was a key piece of the financial pie that only fell into place the week after the lane closings.

Maybe the lane closings were intended to send a message, not to the Ft Lee mayor, or the Democrats in the legislature, but to the people behind the Hudson Lights project - telling them that those lanes could disappear at the whim of the governor and his buddies at the Port authority, unless they came to terms on something. Maybe price. Maybe terms. Maybe a tenant. Maybe whether there would be a casino. In other words, somebody close to the governor had a financial interest (one way or the other) in the project.

The Hudson Lights developers got the message, and complied. The financing (a tenant?) came through.

Who had that financial interest? One name comes to mind.

Alessandro Machi said...

Rachel Maddow has a theory that it was payback over Judge appointments. Christie withheld a democrat judge tenure appointment in 2012, the democrats, the day before this happened, held up a Christie appointment.

Fort Lee is the in jurisdiction of the head of the democrat assembly. (I am recalling all of the above based on a video clip I saw earlier today, it might be off the official descriptions but the gist is there.)

Michael said...

The judicial appointment theory is a good one. But I am also looking for one that will explain more of Christie's words and actions and denials. In spite of what he said (which was just a part of the cover story), I don't get that Christie gives two bits about the Ft Lee lanes. Also, if it was a message to the Dems for blocking his judicial nominations, he could have been a lot clearer.

My theory is that someone else wanted to send that message (and it was about a real estate deal). That someone else is a friend of Christie's, and when the friend asked for Christie's help, Christie said, "Sure, call my people and let them know what you need, but leave me out of the loop [plausible deniability]." Christie told his people, "If so-and-so ever asks for assistance, please give him all the help you can."

Money is the root of all evil. Look behind the money and you'll too often find a real estate deal.

Anonymous said...

I think Michael is right: it's the development thing. Because the development thing is all about money and subsequently . . . power, making people do what you want when you want. Because I'm a native of the state and have friends and family residing in NJ, I tend to follow news reports of the area. For months and months I've been reading these 'stories' regarding Christie's lack of transparency and heavy hand. Sandy fund mishandling; the sheriff under investigation for campaign finance fraud [grand jury investigation squashed, prosecutors fired]; and land development deals that didn't pass the smell test. Unless you're living or interested in NJ politics, you're unlikely to have heard of any of these ongoing complaints.

Until Kornacke blew off the roof and exposed the Christie fiasco to the general public.

Buono gave a scathing account of what was going on during last year's election--the corruption and deals on both sides of the aisle in her concession speech. But, of course, anything she said came off as sour grapes. The Democratic party threw her to the wolves because they had already made nice with The Boss. And that's who Christie is--an old fashion party boss in the mold of Daley in Chicago. Or my favorite, Frank Rizzo of Philly fame. These are men who are willing to break heads, twist the edges of propriety to get what they want.

The one thing they can't withstand is . . . daylight. The web is breaking apart. I suspect there's more to come. Why Christie's people thought digging back to Wildstein's high school days was a good way to go is anybody's guess.

For me it spells flop sweat. They're in trouble and they know it. Even the call to Cuomo to call off the guard dogs at the beginning of the bridge investigation was a tell-tale sign.

This is the house that hubris built.