Cable news has been so preoccupied with the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that they’ve lost touch with the ballooning scandals surrounding New Jersey Governor and doughnut connoisseur Chris Christie. Therefore, it falls upon us to bring you up to date on the most recent developments.
- Emails released early last week show Christie adviser Bill Stepien was kept in the loop on the BridgeGhazi scandal: “[T]he governor’s campaign manager was kept informed of complaints over the closures even while lanes remained blocked. … One email shows Christie’s top appointee at the bridge agency following up with Stepien on a letter of complaint on the fourth full day of lane closures.”
- Crooks and Liars has a good summary of the latest smoking e-mails:
- Stepien is repeatedly forwarded emails about the lane closures beginning on September 12, the fourth day of the five-day scheme. In the weeks afterward, as reporters begin to question why the lanes were closed, Stepien is looped in on emails that discuss avoiding reporters’ questions.
- On November 26, 2013, after Christie’s appointee at the Port Authority, Bill Baroni, testifies that the lane closures were due to a traffic study, Stepien writes him an email praising him. In that email, he refers to the time Baroni argued with the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg at a congressional hearing about the Port Authority’s toll hikes: “I know its not a fun topic and not nearly as fun as beating up on Frank Lautenberg, but you did great, and I wanted to thank you.”
- In response, Baroni thanks Stepien, and references Democratic state legislators Loretta Weinberg and John Wisniewski, who would become the co-chairs of the Legislature’s investigative committee on Bridgegate: “[They] will keep their nonsense but at least we have explained the counter narrative.”
- On Jan. 8, 2013, an email from Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, is released. It says: “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Shortly thereafter, Christie spokesman Colin Reed sends a note to his boss, communications director Maria Comella, with advice for Kelly in regards to her Twitter account: “Maybe too late, but she may want to shut down everything on social media.”
- Failing upward! Stepian has been poached by a GOP firm: “Stepien, who ran both of Christie’s gubernatorial campaigns, signed on to help the phone-banking and data giant FLS Connect with sales and strategy on its voter contact products, according to a source with knowledge of the relationship. Sheila Berkley, the company’s president, acknowledged the hiring in a statement to POLITICO. ‘FLS Connect is excited to have Bill Stepien join our team,’ said Berkley, who is also a partner in the firm. ‘His extensive national experience and knowledge will be an asset to our clients and our company.’”
- Procedural maneuvering continues as lawyers for two ex-Christie aides are now angling for immunity from prosecution: “Lawyers for two former underlings of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in separate court filings Friday that a legislative committee should be able to offer their clients immunity from prosecution in exchange for providing information for the committee’s investigation of possible political payback. The briefs on behalf of former Christie aide Bridget Kelly and ex-campaign manager Bill Stepien were highly critical of the court filings from the lawmakers early this week, questioning their motives for releasing emails involving their clients and their legal positions. Kelly’s lawyer, Michael Critchley, compared the committee’s arguments to ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”
- The Governor is starting to take heat directly from constituents: “Critics of Republican Gov. Chris Christie are becoming more vocal — and more visible. Opponents are showing up at his public and private events, hurling criticisms on a range of topics and questioning his knowledge of a plot orchestrated by his aides to tie up traffic near the world’s busiest bridge. It may not seem unusual for a brash politician with a national following to attract dissenters when he’s out in public, but Christie’s opponents mostly stayed home until emails revealed in January that people loyal to him had stalled traffic in Fort Lee for four days, apparently to punish the town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election.”
- Christie’s “crackdown” on Tesla has backfired, eliciting a bruising editorial on his heavy-handed move:
There’s not a whole lot of love out there for car salesmen. Who wouldn’t rather buy a car straight from the manufacturer, and avoid all the fees and sleaze? So you’d think our state would be cheering on Tesla Motors, an innovative American company that makes electric cars and sells them just like Apple sells iPads — direct from its store at the mall. But no. Instead we are chasing Tesla out of New Jersey, thanks to Gov. Chris Christie. His political minions at the state Motor Vehicle Commission recently voted to revoke Tesla’s license to sell cars, which the agency had previously issued under Gov. Jon Corzine. That means Tesla will no longer be allowed to sell from its showrooms at the Mall at Short Hills and Garden State Plaza. It adds New Jersey to just a handful of states that ban direct car sales. So much for improving our state’s business climate.