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Christie accused of withholding Sandy money as political retribution

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Less than 24 hours after the legislature of New Jersey issued subpoenas to the governor’s office and members of the Christie administration, new allegations of abuse of power have surfaced Saturday. The latest disclosure indicates that the Christie administration withheld federal Sandy relief funds from the city of Hoboken, NJ as political retribution.

This is the second instance in which the governor’s inner staff has been accused of punishing innocent citizens of New Jersey to payback a Democratic mayor for not doing what Governor Christie, or at least his staff, wanted.

Saturday morning, Steve Kornacki broke a new story on MSNBC about an allegation by the Mayor of Hoboken that her city was denied Sandy funds because she did not approve a private development in her city. Hoboken was 80% flooded by Sandy. The city requested $127 million in Sandy funds to re-build Hoboken and make improvements to protect the city and the subways in the event of a future storm. Christie gave the town only $142,000 out of the $250 million he distributed in the first tranche of Sandy funds.

That $142,000 is a tiny fraction of the $25 million in federal Sandy money the Governor’s administration spent on a TV commercial aired during last fall’s campaign featuring the Governor’s family. It appears taxpayers pent an extra $2 million for the commercial just so the Christie family could be used in lieu of ordinary citizens or actors. The Inspector General is investigating.

In an exclusive interview Saturday on “UP with Steve Kornacki” on MSNBC Mayor Dawn Zimmer broke her silence and revealed that two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned her earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor.

Mayor Zimmer said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, delivered messages on behalf of the governor she had long supported. Although she is a Democrat, she was a Christie supporter as far back as the days he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

“It’s not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the city of Hoboken” because he wants support for one private developer, she said Saturday. She shared her personal journal and public records with Steve Kornacki to back up her claim. Spokespersons for Constable and Lt. Governor Guadagno denied the accusation.

At issue is a proposed 19-block development in Hoboken pushed by the Rockefeller Group. The proposal pre-dated mayor Zimmer’s administration. When she became mayor, she had a study done to determine the feasibility of the project. The study showed that only three blocks of the 19 were fit for development. So she has not approved it yet.

Immediately, the Rockefeller Group retained the law firm of Wolfe and Sampson to represent them. The Sampson in the firm’s name is Christi’s appointee as Chairman of the Port Authority, and one of the individuals who received a subpoena in the Bridgegate investigation.

Pressure was applied to mayor Zimmer to back down. On May 13, Lt. Gov Guadagno and Zimmer met at the Hoboken ShopRite. That is where, Zimmer said, Guadagno delivered the first message about the relief aide. She shared this diary entry which she said she wrote later that day.

“At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, she pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It is very important to the governor. The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right – these things should not be connected – but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.”

The second warning, according to Zimmer, came four days later. She and Constable, who now led Christie’s department of community affairs, were seated together on stage for a public television special on Sandy recovery. Again, Zimmer provided this diary entry from May 17, which she said captured the incident.

This is not good news for Chris Christie because just as with Watergate, shoes keep dropping showing a pattern that suggests an abuse of power. This story will not go away anytime soon.

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