| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Jan 13 U.S. investigators are looking
into whether embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
misused about $2 million in Superstorm Sandy relief funds for an
ad campaign that put him in the spotlight in an election year, a
lawmaker said on Monday.
Already enmeshed in a scandal over snarled traffic at the
George Washington Bridge, Christie, a rising star in the
Republican party, is now being audited by the Inspector General
at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said
New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., a Democrat.
The inspector is focusing on a federally financed $25
million Jersey Shore marketing campaign that included a
television commercial featuring Christie and his family, which
cost $2 million more than a competing bid without them.
"It is inappropriate for taxpayer-funded dollars that are
critical to our state's recovery from this natural disaster to
fund commercials that could potentially benefit a political
campaign," Pallone said in an Aug. 8, 2013 letter requesting the
"While promoting tourism at the Jersey Shore in the wake of
Hurricane Sandy is certainly a worthy endeavor, recent reports
have led me to believe that the state has irresponsibly
misappropriated funding allocated by Congress from the Sandy aid
package and taken advantage of this waiver for political
purposes," the letter said.
The winning ad, with the tag line that New Jersey was
"Stronger than the Storm," aired in the spring as Christie
headed into a re-election campaign to win a second term.
On Oct. 29, 2012, Sandy devastated New York, New Jersey and
other parts of the East Coast. The historic storm killed at
least 159 people, and damaged or destroyed more than 650,000
homes, many in Pallone's district on the Jersey Shore, where the
storm made landfall.
"Had Governor Christie chosen the less expensive firm, $2.2
million in federal disaster aid could have potentially been
directed elsewhere, for example, to provide 44 Sandy-impacted
homeowners $50,000 grants to raise their homes," Pallone said in
a press release.
There was no immediate response to calls and emails to
Christie's office for comment.
News of the audit arrives in the shadow of a scandal dubbed
"Bridgegate" by tabloids, in which a massive traffic jam was
orchestrated by Christie's staff in September, apparently as
political payback against the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who
didn't endorse Christie for reelection.
Christie, a likely contender for the White House in 2016,
last week fired a top aide who called for the closure of lanes
to the George Washington Bridge, and has denied knowledge of the
The Democratic Assembly speaker-elect said he planned to
call the New Jersey Legislature into a special session this week
to continue to investigate the four-day incident, which
paralyzed Fort Lee, on the Jersey side of the bridge.
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman, whose job
Christie held before being elected governor, has opened an
investigation into the decision to close the lanes.
The governor also faces a class-action lawsuit filed in
federal court on Thursday by Rosemarie Arnold, a lawyer charging
that area residents suffered financially from being trapped in
(Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)