Dec 29th - 6:02 am
At about 4:30 Saturday afternoon, staff from Governor Chris Christie’s office in Trenton New Jersey called the majority offices of both houses of New Jersey’s Legislature. Their message was that a massive structural reform bill for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would be vetoed.
In contrast, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office told no one – not even the sponsors of the legislation – that a joint press release would be coming out later that night from the two governors, announcing rejection of the bill and implementation of their own reforms at the Port Authority.
The same release casually mentioned in the last paragraph that “neither governor is approving the legislation as passed.”
The lead was so buried on this one that my news desk at NY1 asked me twice if I was sure Cuomo was vetoing the bill. Yes, I told them, I am sure. But I could understand the confusion.
In New Jersey the news leaked. Of course it did. I covered news in Jersey for 13 years. I coulda told you it would leak. All credit goes to Shawn Boburg at the Bergen Record who has done some excellent reporting on Bridgegate and the Port Authority.
Boburg (who I do not know personally) was the guy who called former Christie aide Bridget Kelly last January to inform her that he had in his possession of an unfortunately worded email of hers that read: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
The problem with this leaking out the way it did is that it made Cuomo look like he was not in control of his own story. The story instantly became the vetoes, not the other reforms the two governors are implementing – many of which are very good.
For example, asking for the resignations of all the commissioners. (Should have been done a year ago, but whatever). Among those who will be asked to tender his resignation is Pat Foye, the Port Authority executive director and Cuomo appointee who sources say has been providing information to US Attorney Paul Fishman about the Bridgegate scandal.
Fishman has been trying to build a case. Sources say they can likely get many of the players on conspiracy, but there needs to be an underlying crime if people are going to get charged with covering one up.
The two governors are also looking to end the destructive relationship between the executive director and the deputy executive director, which some have argued led to the current crisis. Bill Baroni was the deputy and instead of answering to Foye, (technically his boss ), he answered directly to Christie.
Cuomo and Christie have also proposed selling off the Port Authority’s real estate assets, and many believe there will soon be a fire sale for the largest real estate donors who just wrote huge checks to both governors for their respective re-election campaigns. That would be 2013 for Christie, and this past fall for Cuomo.
In fact, most who have been watching this process closely think the unilateral reforms from the two governors “fall far short.”
Or as Assemblyman James Brennan of Brooklyn puts it: “The governor’s proposed reforms may be positive, but they are not relevant.”
There are no whistleblower protections, for example. No yearly outside audits to be presented to the comptrollers and legislatures of both states. No change that would make failing to REPORT a crime a CRIME itself.
All of those provisions were in the now-vetoed reform legislation.
New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Venieri-Huttle called the vetoes “a total rebuke to the ratepayers and the elected members of the legislature from both states.” She also called both Cuomo and Christie – who are not exactly shrinking violets – “spineless” for going this route.
The two bills passed unanimously by more than 600 votes in both states. That is basically unheard of. But there is no chance for an override, because New York is starting a new legislative session in January.
Essentially, to get any kind of reform the process must start over from the very beginning. And that is going to be tough to do.
The two governors likely understand that, which some believe is why the vetoes were announced in the odd manner that they were. Sure, some of the sponsors had their suspicions, as Jesse Mckinley astutely pointed out, especially when Cuomo’s office refused to negotiate or offer any changes to the bill.
But the Saturday night news drop over Chistmas weekend was, well…special. Even for Christie and Cuomo.
Obviously, Christie doesn’t want any more public discussion about him and the Port Authority, which might help explain his desire to veto the bill at the witching hour and abruptly end the conversation.
Christie still harbors presidential ambitions, although his chances are much slimmer now than he seems willing to admit, according to this excellent Op-Ed by Joshua Henne.
So, now the conversation comes back to Cuomo and his angle. The two governors dined together in New Jersey last week (at Il Villaggio on Route 17, which is not exactly inconspicuous, btw ).
One would assume that during that meal, they made the joint decision to announce these vetoes on the Saturday night over a holiday weekend, as a midnight deadline to take action loomed for Cuomo.
We know Christie, a Republican, helped out Cuomo, a centrist Democrat, in his re-election bid this fall by making three public appearances with him on homeland security issues. Perhaps this was Cuomo’s way of saying “thank you”? We already know that Cuomo and Christie have had an alliance for quite some time.
An honest look back at the Port Authority these last few years reveals that it’s mostly been the New Jersey side that has run roughshod over the rules, and used the place as a patronage pit. New York, curiously, has actually shown a lot less interest in abusing the authority lately.
With the vetoes, Christie seems to think he can turn the page on an ugly chapter in his governorship, and also fulfill his wish to finally get Foye fired for exposing Bridgegate. Cuomo, meanwhile, gets control of his passion project to modernize the New York airports.
It’s really anybody’s guess what these two were thinking and discussing over Italian food in a restaurant known for its proximity to strip clubs.
But perhaps the funniest take on all this comes from Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality, who wrote on his Facebook page after the vetoes: “The award for the most annoying same-sex couple of the year goes to Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo.”
Nov 14th - 12:59 pm
Several good government groups are calling on Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie to sign a package of bills aimed at reforming the Port Authority that passed its final hurdle in the New Jersey legislature, yesterday.
The bills, designed to provide more transparency and oversight to the agency, have now passed both houses in New Jersey and New York.
The legislation comes after last year’s Bridgegate Scandal, which essentially led to a massive, dangerous roadblock after lanes were closed on the George Washington Bridge. There’s been skepticism whether New Jersey Governor Chris Christie authorized – or even knew about – the closures. It’s been reported that his administration was involved, but Christie says he had nothing to do with the closures.
That back and forth ultimately led to this package of bills. They allow for more transparency in the form of regular audits and the release of documents to the public, as well as a closer look at decisions made by officials in the agency.
The bills now head to the desks of both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie – both of which have faced questions about the scandal at one point or another.
In a statement jointly released from Citizens Union, NYPIRG, Reinvent Albany, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and New Jersey Foundation for Open Government, the groups said, in part:
“After months of controversy, the public deserves a more open and accountable entity that will reform the way it does business. The Port Authority was created in the spirit of bi-state cooperation, and the voters of New Jersey and New York deserve the final approval of these important pieces of legislation. It is only through increased transparency, sound governance, and professional management that public confidence and trust can be restored.
We thank Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Amy Handlin and Senators Loretta Weinberg, Robert Gordon and Joe Pennacchio for their leadership in New Jersey, as well as Assemblymembers James Brennan and Amy Paulin and Senators Andrew Lanza and Michael Ranzenhofer for their stewardship of the legislation in New York.”
Oct 13th - 7:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
The campaign of Republican former Rep. Nan Hayworth has unleashed a robocall this weekend featuring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The call appears to be an edited version of a 2012 phone call Christie recorded for Hayworth.
In the call, Christie says he has endorsed Hayworth “and I hope you will too.”
“Nan is a strong, principled woman who has lived in the Hudson Valley for over 24 years,” Christie says in the ad. “A doctor, a mother, a small business owner. Nan knows that tax relief, spending restraint and fewer regulations on small business owners is the only way to create new jobs for everyone in this country. She gets it and I hope Nan Hayworth will get your vote.”
The call comes as Hayworth seeks to win back her old seat in the 18th congressional district against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who unseated her two years ago.
Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate and the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has been criticized this year for not aiding the Republican candidate for governor in New York, Rob Astorino.
Jul 22nd - 8:37 am
From the morning memo:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for now, is taking a pass on getting involved on Republican Rob Astorino’s behalf in the race for New York governor.
The reasoning is simple, according to NJ.com: Christie, the head of the Republican Governors Association, doesn’t think Astorino has much of a shot.
“I will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning,” said Christie while campaigning in Connecticut.
“We don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes,” he added. “If the New York race becomes competitive, I’ll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there’s a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut.”
A Siena poll of likely voters released on Monday found Astorino trailing Cuomo by 37 percentage points.
The Christie comments also come as Astorino, the Westchester County executive, lags in fundraising against Cuomo as well.
Christie had reportedly met with Astorino late last year to discuss a potential run for governor against Cuomo, a Democrat who the New Jersey Republican has had a publicly cordial relationship.
During the controversy over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, Cuomo was careful not to criticize Christie’s handling of the situation.
It was rumored that Christie was going to even appear at Cuomo’s second Adirondack Challenge this past weekend, but ultimately did not attend (The optics, to say the least, would have been very interesting).
Astorino, meanwhile, due to make a joint appearance with Zephyr Teachout this morning at the Tweed Courthouse — an eyebrow raising event that could garner both campaigns more attention during a relatively slow summer.
Teachout, a Fordham law professor, is challenging Cuomo on the Democratic primary ballot (Her petitions are being challenged by the governor’s re-election campaign).
The joint appearance comes as both Astorino and Teachout try to raise their name recognition with voters and gain the attention of Cuomo.
Astorino has challenged the governor to a series of debates around the state, which the Cuomo campaign has brushed aside.
It’s interesting to note, too, that Cuomo started his own campaign in 2010 for governor at the Tweed Courthouse, launching an effort based on cleaning up Albany.
Feb 21st - 12:10 pm
It was a bit of a surprise when I received a phone call shortly before deadline last night from a very agitated Patrick Foye, Cuomo’s hand-picked Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I thanked Foye for reaching out, but it became clear pretty quickly we were not going exchange pleasantries.
He was furious, saying he heard that I had a bunch of “fukakta f*%#ing theories” about the Bridgegate scandal that’s been tormenting Governor Chris Christie — and that Governor Cuomo has been trying to avoid.
I may be the world’s worst Jew, but I did grow up around enough Yiddish to understand what Foye meant. It was difficult to get much else from the conversation, which felt a bit like a verbal barrage of salty language and vitriolic venom.
On Wednesday, the Port Authority held it’s first monthly meeting since the Bridgegate scandal really took on steam. Foye is the central figure in the case because he was the first person to call the controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge a “violation of federal law and the laws of both states.”
Foye expressed that belief in an internal September 13th email sent to other Port Authority officials in September and CCed Howard Glaser, a top aide to Cuomo.
At the meeting we asked Foye whether he reported his belief to proper authorities. Foye said he sent an email to the Inspector General, the law enforcement arm within the the bi-state agency. fair enough. But that was it? Glaser apparently had one phone conversation with Foye after that, but never spoke to the Governor about the case.
But if your top guy at the Port Authority – who happens to run the agency – suggests a crime was committed, might that rise to the level of at least a conversation with the Governor? Cuomo Administration officials have maintained that they believed it was a mess that was somehow contained to Jersey. The problem with that is twofold:
1) Anything that is done under the auspices of the Port Authority (like lane closures enforced by PA police) is immediately the problem of both states, since it’s a bi-state agency. There is no “New Jersey” side or “New York” side.
2) Foye’s email explicitly said New York law was violated…that’s what “both states” means.
Foye yesterday refused to say whether he ever had a conversation with Cuomo. I asked him a variation of this question at least three times, and he referred me to the governor’s office on “second floor” – which is odd because the second floor had referred me to him.
Cuomo has said that he first learned of the lane closures in October when it hit the press. So, did he and Foye have a conversation then? The legislature in New Jersey finally began to investigate, and that’s when Foye was called down to Trenton to testify.
But it was not until that testimony on December 9th that Foye revealed there had been no traffic study – the stated reason from the Christie appointees (who have since been fired) as to why the lanes were actually closed. Clearly, Foye had already conducted his own internal investigation and determined that malfeasance was afoot. It’s an open question whether people could have known about this case on the “New York” side and kept quiet to avoid getting into a messy scrum with Christie.
Matt Wing, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo says,
“Clearly Pat Foye acquitted himself exactly as a public servant should.”
Let’s look at the oath and guidelines Foye is obligated to uphold. According to the Port Authority’s own ethics policy,
“No employee shall commit any act or neglect any duty which in any way is prejudicial to good order, discipline, or efficiency, or reflects unfavorably upon the good name and reputation of the Port Authority, or adversely affects the interests of the Port Authority or those of the general public.”
In addition, as a lawyer, Foye is obligated to uphold rules of professional conduct outlined by the Unified New York State Court System which includes,
“A lawyer should maintain high standards of professional conduct and should encourage other lawyers to do likewise…Obedience to law exemplifies respect for law. To lawyers especially, respect for the law should be more than a platitude.”
Foye didn’t simply write a hyperbolic email on September 13th. He doubled down on the claim that a crime had been committed Wednesday saying,
I believe then and I believe now, and obviously given the multiplicity of law enforcement investigations underway there is some serious question of violations of federal and state laws. It was my belief then, it is my belief now.
It’s clear the culture of secrecy is alive and well at this massive bi-state agency. And when things go wrong there is a tendency to hush them up out of an overarching concern about the agency’s bond rating. These agencies were set up to be above the politics of both states — but now it appears that it could be operating beyond the laws of them as well. The Port Authority has been operating in a gray netherworld where a lack of transparency keeps pests in the press from finding out what is actually going on.
But when something really bad happens, the ultimate authorities here – in this case the two Governors – are obligated to find out the truth and be honest about what they know. That appears not to have happened here.
And that is what I would call “fakakta.”
Feb 4th - 10:19 am
While other top Republicans like former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-VP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan are rallying around NJ Gov. Chris Christie as the George Washington Bridge scandal continues to unfold, former Gov. George Pataki is suggesting the mess has made Christie damaged goods for 2016.
“Like everyone else, I have no idea what Gov. Christie did or did not know,” Pataki told Newsmax TV’s John Bachman.
“But a year from now that will be clear. And, at that point, either the governor will have been exonerated and in a position to run or not, in which case we won’t be talking about it anymore.”
“…If, in fact, others in his administration or the governor himself were aware that this was going on, then, sure, he cannot run for president because he was very unequivocal in his press conference,” the former governor continued. “If it turns out that there were people on his staff who did this as a rogue matter, then he’s been hurt, but it’s survivable.”
“We just have to wait and see over the next few weeks what happens, but, clearly, someone who had been the frontrunner has been damaged severely and we have to take a look.”
Pataki, who once harbored White House aspirations of his own, said he does not think there will be a “dearth of talent” for the Republicans in 2016, noting that there are many leaders in the party – including a number of (unnamed) “former governors.”
It’s “way too soon” to start naming names of potential candidates, Pataki insisted, adding: “There’s a lot of good, capable people out there.”
He did not rule himself out of the running, saying he has learned to “never say never” in politics, even though he’s having a “tremendous time” in the private sector.
Pataki also had some harsh words for his fellow New Yorker, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the current frontrunner for the Democratic nod to replace President Obama.
“Absolutely she’s beatable; anyone is beatable,” Pataki said. “She has great name I.D., but you look at her record as secretary of state, you look at her comments on Benghazi.”
“One of the things most troubling to me was Secretary of Defense (Robert) Gates’, not quotation, but recitation of when he was sitting with Obama and Hillary and she was acknowledging that she opposed the surge in Iraq solely to help her political career. That is wrong.”
Pataki noted that his son was a Marine lieutenant in Iraq during the surge.
Jan 9th - 2:14 pm
A trio of New York lawmakers are calling for a New York-based investigation of New Jersey officials closing access lanes on the George Washington Bridge in order to exact political retribution.
The call from Sen. Adriano Espaillat and city Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa come after Gov. Chris Christie apologized in a lengthy news conference for his government and political aides shutting the bridge down in order to exact political retribution on the mayor of Fort Lee.
But the New York lawmakers say there also needs to be a determination if there was any impact on the New York side of the bridge as well.
Espaillat, a potential Congressional candidate against Rep. Charlie Rangel later this year, is reviving his call to have key Senate committees — transportation, government operations and investigations — probe the incident.
He had initially sent a letter to committee chairman in November after the issue was first raised, but before smoking gun emails revealed the extent of the bridge closure and the involvement of the Christie administration.
The bi-state Port Authority has oversight of the George Washington Bridge.
“The George Washington Bridge has enormous impact on the Upper Manhattan neighborhoods I represent,” Espaillat said today in a statement. “Some of my constituents rely on it to commute to work, and traffic from the bridge frequently causes problems along local streets, and makes conditions less safe for pedestrians. Had this incident been successfully suppressed from the public, it would have marked a terrible precedent and negatively impacted our community’s future.”
Jan 9th - 12:07 pm
Rep. Michael Grimm is standing with Gov. Chris Christie at a time when Republicans aren’t rushing forward to defend the embattled politician and possible 2016 presidential candidate.
In a statement released while Christie’s news conference was still going on, the Staten Island Congressman managed to not only praise Christie but bash President Obama.
“Governor Christie demonstrated true leadership and accountability during today’s press conference,” said Grimm. “I have known Governor Christie since he was a United States Attorney with a distinguished anti-corruption record and I was an undercover agent working a high profile public corruption case with his office. I know him to be a man of unquestionable honor and ironclad integrity, and I take him at his word. In an a time when President Obama and key figures in his administration shamelessly pass the buck and avoid accountability for one massive failure after another, the Governor’s swift and immediate action to dismiss those responsible, commit himself to a full vetting of his staff, and embrace his responsibility as his state’s chief executive is both uncommon and refreshing.”
Update: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is chiming in on Grimm’s statement, as it tries to boot the congressman from office this year.
“It’s comes as no surprise that Congressman Michael Grimm who is currently being investigated by the FBI himself, would be the first elected official in the country to come to Chris Christie’s defense,” said DCCC spokesman Marc Brumer. “Maybe they can they can carpool to federal court together. Only Congressman Michael Grimm would use a scandal in another state to try to divert attention from his own scandal plagued tenure in office. Another day, another desperate attempt by Congressman Grimm to distract New Yorkers from his failed record.”
Update: The National Republican Congressional Committee is now getting into the mix, putting out a statement going after Grimm’s opponent, Domenic Recchia, and the D-trip.
“Speaking of traveling to federal court, when Domenic Recchia went there last month to plead leniency for Colombo crime boss Carmine Persico’s mobster son-in-law, did Carmine pay for Domenic to get there in a fully stocked stretch limo? And while we’re talking about traffic in New York, let’s not forget that the DCCC’s anointed candidate Recchia voted for a plan to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th St. which would have cost Staten Island drivers millions. So ‘traffic talk’ is probably not a winning conversation for Recchia and his Washington surrogates,” said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior.
Jan 8th - 12:12 pm
Natinoal Democrats can barely contain their glee over the revelation this morning that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – a leading GOP contender for the 2016 presidential race – was not only closely involved with lane closings on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, but that those lanes were closed in a clear act of political retribution.
Emails and texts released by the New York Times show that a deputy chief of staff in Christie’s office gave a signal to the Port Authority to close the lanes about two weeks before the closings occurred.
And Christie’s handpicked chairman of the Port Authority, David Samson, was also involved, according to emails that describe his efforts to “retaliate” against New York officials who had not been told of the changes and sought to ease the gridlock.
Christie had repeatedly insisted that his office had nothing to do with the lane closures, and his many statements were highlighted in a DNC video released late this morning. (Look for the Fred Dicker cameo at the end; it’s a clip from his radio show in which he announces the governor has cancelled his only scheduled public appearance today).
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz also issued a statement calling the revelations about the Christie administration’s involvement “troubling,” but not surprising.
“These revelations are troubling for any public official,” Wasserman Schultz said, “but they also indicate what we’ve come to expect from Governor Christie – when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his Administration, he bullies and attacks.”
“For 121 days, Chris Christie disparaged the questioners and later lied saying no one in his office was involved. That was clearly untrue given the discovery of emails that came directly from his own top staff. Time’s up, Governor.”
From an incredibly hyper-local standpoint, this is a nice gift for Gov. Andrew Cuomo – to see a man who is widely perceived as a potential political rival to the governor at the national level embroiled in a scandal on the very day the governor is giving a high-profile speech that will net him national headlines that are likely to be largely positive.
Jan 28th - 6:52 pm
With the $50 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid winning its final passage in the U.S. Senate, the three governors from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey said a joint statement this evening they’re grateful the package is finally approved.
In the statement from Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie and Dannel Malloy, the governors note that it was a “difficult pathy in getting to this moment” but thanked the Senate for speedy passage.
There’s also thanks for the “tenacious efforts” of the states’ Congressional delegations.
But those are the only references in the statement for a saga that dragged on for months following the storm that devastated parts of the New York City metropolitan area.
The dispute over funding to pay for cleanup costs and infrastructure repairs saw Christie and Rep. Peter King of Long Island, Republicans both, openly questioning and assailing the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives.
But the effort also put a focus on the relationships between the three governors in the tri-state area, with extra special attention on Cuomo and Christie, who have by all accounts worked well together, but are also potential presidential contenders down the road.
Here’s the statement:
“Our genuine thanks and gratitude goes out to the U.S. Senate for its thoughtful consideration and passage of the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief package. Despite the difficult path in getting to this moment, the Senate membership clearly recognized early on the urgency and necessity of approving the full aid package and its importance in rebuilding our battered infrastructure and getting our millions of affected residents back on their feet as quickly as possible. To all Americans, we are grateful for their willingness to come to our aid as we take on the monumental task of rebuilding and we pledge to do the same should our fellow citizens find themselves facing unexpected and harsh devastation.
“We also make special note of the tenacious efforts of our respective Congressional delegations in steering the Sandy aid package through their respective houses and bringing this aid home to their people.”