It came to light last week that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration plotted with transportation officials to create traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., after its Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich refused to back Christie’s reelection bid. Lanes were closed for several days in September on the George Washington Bridge, the busiest bridge in the U.S., which connects New Jersey to New York City. Sadly, an elderly woman died of cardiac arrest when emergency paramedics were delayed by the hours of gridlock.
State legislators held hearings and subpoenaed witnesses and documents as suspicion arose about the gridlock. It was revealed that one of Christie’s deputy chiefs of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an email to a Christie appointee at the Port Authority, saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The appointee, David Wildstein, responded with “Got it.” Bill Stepien, the strategist who managed Christie’s two gubernatorial campaigns, was implicated in the gridlock email chain describing the Fort Lee mayor as an “idiot.” Christie fired those three, but denied knowing anything about it, claiming he had been told it was simply a traffic study.
I’ve worked in both county and state government in Arizona for years, as well as for politicians inside and outside of government, and my hunch is this goes all the way to the top. It happens all too frequently. Look at Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne, a Democrat-turned-liberal-Republican, who is about to be defeated this year running for reelection by relatively unknown conservative challenger Mark Brnovich. Horne has been under investigation by more than one agency for allegedly illegally coordinating contributions to his campaign from an “independent” campaign committee. Although Horne denied the allegations, when all the documents were produced, an email trail was found leading back to him, and one of the county attorneys who investigated him found that he had violated the law.
Christie stated at his news conference last week, “There’s no way that anybody would think that I know about everything that’s going on, not only in every agency of government at all times, but also every independent authority.” I hate to say this, because I want Republicans to prevail, but it is simply unlikely Christie was unaware of what his aides were doing. He may not have orchestrated the wrongdoing, but my gut instinct tells me he must have known it was taking place.