Christie faces new federal inquiry

Published Jan. 14, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. — A scandal involving the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expanded into new areas Monday, ratcheting up the pressure on the embattled Republican.

Democratic lawmakers announced the creation of special investigative committee with subpoena power to further scrutinize a scheme in which top aides to the governor worked to paralyze traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., in an apparent plot against the town's Democratic mayor after he declined to endorse Christie's re-election effort last year.

Meanwhile, new documents released by Jersey City officials Monday suggest that the Christie administration punished the Democratic mayor of that town last summer by cutting off his access to top state officials when he declined to back the governor's re-election bid.

And in Washington, federal auditors have begun looking into Christie's use of Hurricane Sandy recovery money to pay for a $25 million New Jersey tourism marketing campaign last year starring him and his family.

The developments compound the political challenge Christie faces in trying to move past the controversy, which began as a local furor over blocked access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in North Jersey before exploding into a national story that threatens his future as a leading GOP presidential candidate.

When asked about the new investigations, a Christie spokesman pointed to the governor's remarks at a news conference last week, in which he said his administration will "work cooperatively" with legislators.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., a longtime Christie critic, said Monday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating the governor's use of federal recovery money related to Hurricane Sandy, which tore apart much of the state's coastline in 2012. Ads featuring Christie drew criticism last year from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and others because they brought taxpayer-funded attention to the governor during his re-election campaign.

Christie aides noted that HUD praised the ads. "We're confident that any review will show that the ads were a key part in helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history," Christie spokesman Colin Reed said.