One bridge investigation has led to another for the Chris Christie administration, further diminishing the New Jersey governor’s chances of running for president in 2016. (Potential Republican candidates just can’t stop getting prosecuted.) In this chapter of the Christie corruption saga, the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into the administration’s use of Port Authority funds (shared between New York and New Jersey) on repairs to the Pulaski Skyway, a bridge connecting Newark and Jersey City (both in New Jersey). There might be felony charges coming.
Again and again, Port Authority lawyers warned against the move: The Pulaski Skyway, they noted, is owned and operated by the state, putting it outside the agency’s purview, according to dozens of memos and emails reviewed by investigators and obtained by The New York Times.
But the Christie administration relentlessly lobbied to use the money for the Skyway, with Mr. Christie announcing publicly that the state planned to rely on Port Authority funds even before an agreement was reached. Eventually, the authority justified the Skyway repairs by casting the bridge as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, even though they are not directly connected.
Bond documents called the projects “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements,” which doesn’t seem strictly true. That’s the issue here: Under New York State law, intentionally deceiving bond holders can be a felony (with civil action by the SEC also possible), even without evidence that there was intent to defraud. (Christie has said, “Dozens and dozens of lawyers from both sides of the river reviewed that financing plan and approved it, as did the commissioners of the Port Authority,” playing it up as a collaboration between agencies.)
Last week, Esquire reported on the potential Pulaski fallout from the George Washington Bridge lane-closure probe, adding that indictments are likely in both: “Christie’s Port appointees … all face near-certain indictment and are being pressed to hand up Christie, as is the governor’s former chief counsel, Charlie McKenna.”
While the diversion of Port Authority funds is not as sexy or as easily digestible of a scandal as the political revenge narrative in the George Washington Bridge case, all casual political observers need to know at this point is that Christie plus bridge equals trouble.