Christie’s Blurred Lines

Matt Katz | May 21, 2014 | Katz on Christie

A 24-year-old former midlevel staffer for Gov. Christie’s government office — and later, Christie’s re-election campaign — withstood more than five hours of questioning Tuesday at a Bridgegate hearing that shed light on the Christie political operation at the Statehouse.

But the hearing didn’t tell us is who was responsible for running that operation and whether it was illegal, unethical, or just the nature of modern American government. And while Democratic Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the investigative committee’s co-chair, said that those above Matt Mowers were ultimately responsible, Mowers didn’t name names.

“I blame the people who put you in a position to be dealing with mayors in both a governmental office and a campaign where the lines were obviously blurred,” Weinberg said.

Here are some of those blurred lines, as revealed in testimony and newly released documents:

  • In a memo to his bosses, Mowers writes of giving an American flag that had flown over the World Trade Center to a mayor who is considering endorsing Christie.
  • A so-called “T-100” list of 100 towns was used as a guidepost to determine those mayors who would get the most attention by Christie officials for governmental needs and, later, endorsements. Another list, titled “Politically key mayor/electeds,” listed leaders of “politically intriguing municipalities,” Mowers testified. Such lists largely targeted Democrats, like Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who were later intensely courted for endorsements. Democratic endorsements became the centerpiece of Christie’s reelection campaign.
  • A document that listed gubernatorial staffers’ names also included names of mayors they were supposed to call for endorsements. The document was emailed during the workday, when political work was supposed to be forbidden.
  • In August 2013, Mowers was working for the re-election campaign when his former boss in the governor’s office, Bridget Kelly, called him to ask if Fort Lee’s Sokolich had endorsed Christie. Mowers said no. The next day, Kelly wrote the infamous email: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
  • A travel voucher obtained by WNYC through the Open Public Records Act shows that on the day that Mowers visited Fort Lee and talked to Sokolich about his possible endorsement, Mowers submitted his travel costs for reimbursement. It was 64 miles to Fort Lee and other towns that day, and it cost taxpayers $9.40. Most of the conversation, Mowers noted in a memo, was about government business.