ChristieGate? BridgeGate? BridgeGate II?
The Nation reported today that Chris Christie’s “hatchet men” Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, along with the Port Authority’s Chairman David “The General” Samson, headed a scheme to reconstruct the Bayonne Bridge ten years before it really needed it. Christie touted the efforts in his recent successful reelection bid.
I didn’t see this diaried yet, but I will take it down if someone else covered it already.
The Nation‘s Christie Watch crew does an excellent job of reviewing the nefarious deeds of this crew, including this weekend’s release of the toll hike theater. Today’s post focuses on the Bayonne Bridge project, a $1.2 billion project awarded to construction firm Skanska Koch, a client of, wait for it, Wolff & Samson. The project also won the support of the Laborers’ International Union.
The Bayonne project existed before Christie was elected to his first term, but really took off after his administration was installed. Baroni rallied his troops around him and pushed the project through with the help of Wildstein and, it would seem, Samson. The Nation’s sources claim Samson was a hands-on manager who would meet with Baroni and Wildstein for two hours at a time.
They created a “climate of fear” inside the PA, the source said. And, he added, Baroni and Wildstein were often closeted with David Samson, the PA chairman and Christie’s political mentor. Samson, who has been accused of using his position as PA chairman to benefit his law firm, and whose resignation has been demanded by the Star-Ledger, was a highly engaged and activist chairman, said the source, adding that that was very unusual for a chairman. “Samson was in the office a minimum two, sometimes three times a week and [Baroni and Wildstein] would be behind closed doors with the chairman for two hours at a time,” he said.Baroni and Wildstein, the latter of whom maintained a secret list of favored officials, conspired inside the PA to press for the toll hikes. Along with $1.8 billion in federal and PA funds used by Christie for pet projects after he canceled a plan to build a new Hudson River transit tunnel, the toll hikes and the PA’s more recent PA’s capital spending plan created a tidal wave of new cash for Christie to spend as saw fit. In an editorial on March 4, the Star-Ledger said in an editorial that all these funds created a “piggy bank” for Christie, and it quoted John Wisniewski, chairman of the committee investigating the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, who said, “It’s a slush fund.” According to the Star-Ledger’s news article, Baroni and Wildstein also organized a cabal inside the PA over the toll hikes.
The article is totally worth the read, whether you follow every twist and turn or if you need a primer.Thanks for the recs! Please visit jamess’s diary, “It’s a slush fund.” He had the story first.