N.J. Governor Chris Christie found himself at the center of another storm today, when the federal government indicated it would be investigating his use of federal relief funds after superstorm Sandy.
Although at the time Chris Christie was seen as handling the crisis well, the current investigation is centered on the use of part of the $25 million dollars in relief money, which were used for an advertising campaign. The ad campaign was intended to encourage people to visit the Jersey Shore, probably in the hope that extra revenue from tourism would allow for an even faster recovery from the storm. However, the winning bid was more $2.2 million more expensive than the next best bid, and featured the governor very heavily in its content. This had opponents crying foul and claiming that Christie had used almost 20 percent of the relief funds to promote himself, rather than spend the money on projects that were useful for local communities. The ads also happened to coincide with his re-election campaign last year.
Hurricane Sandy (a post tropical cyclone) crashed through the Caribbean then travelled up the east coast of the US in october 2012. By the time it reached New Jersey it had reduced in power to that of a major storm, but still did extreme damage to properties in the state. The death toll was 149, with 42 dead in New York and 12 dead in New Jersey, with the remaining deaths mostly in Haiti. The storm hit shore near Atlantic City N.J. and coincided with a high tide that increase flooding and water damage as a result. Tens of billions of dollars of business was lost as result of the storm and Gov. Christie put himself at the center of relief efforts to get it back.
Christie and Obama
Even before Sandy hit, Christie shortened a campaign stop in support of Obama’s rival Mitt Romney, to praise the president’s efforts in helping New Jersey prepare. Indeed the president issued a federal emergency declaration before the storm arrived allowing federal agencies to work closely with state agencies, and hit the ground running. Obama later called Cristie, but because it was from a blocked number, the governor almost let it go to voicemail, and they discussed the disaster. The two men would tour the worst hit areas of New jersey together to get a feel of what would need to be done. A reasonably good working relationship across party lines was created, which may now be under threat.
Unfortunately for Christie, a second complaint of abuse of federal funds has emerged from the Mayor of Hoboken N.J., in relation to hurricane Sandy. Mayor Dawn Zimmer has claimed in an interview that she was pushed to support a real estate deal, which she initially declined, and was then told that federal relief money would not be made available until she reversed the decision. The governor’s office categorically denies the allegations, saying this is a political attack. However, Zimmer maintains she requested $130 million in aid, and has received only about $300,000. A spokesman for the governor stated that Hoboken is slated to receive $70 million in aid.
Until this, and other claims of abuse of power, against him are resolved, Chris Christie will remain at the center of a storm, with a cloud hanging over him and his leadership.
By Andrew Willig