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Feds investigating Christie’s use of Sandy relief funds, according to report

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WASHINGTON -- Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds.

CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used those relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.

The news couldn't come at a worse time for the scandal-plagued Republican, who is facing two probes into whether his staff tied up traffic near the country's busiest bridge to punish a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his successful re-election bid.

If the Sandy inquiry finds any wrongdoing, it could prove even more damaging to Christie's national ambitions. His performance during and after the superstorm has been widely praised and is a fundamental part of his straight-shooting political brand.

In the new probe, federal auditors will examine New Jersey's use of $25 million in Sandy relief funds for a marketing campaign to promote tourism at the Jersey Shore after Sandy decimated the state's coastline in late 2012, New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone told CNN

In an August letter, Pallone asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general to look into how Christie chose to spend the marketing money approved by the department.

Neither the governor's office nor the inspector general's office has replied to CNN's request for comment on the investigation.

Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder. The winning $4.7 million bid featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies.

On Sunday, Pallone told CNN that the inspector general conducted a preliminary review of the spending and concluded that there was enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation into the state's use of federal funds. The audit will take several months, and the findings will be issued in an official report, he said.

Pallone, a 27-year veteran of the House and vocal Christie critic, said this is not about politics.

"This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery. And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven't gotten the money that is owed them to rebuild their homes or raise their homes or to help," he told CNN.

Democrats slammed Christie over the summer for starring in taxpayer-funded ads as he was running for re-election in November, arguing it gave him an unfair advantage. Christie aides said at the time that the winning bid provided more value.

Last week, Christie dismissed two top aides for their involvement in closing down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last year, a move that tied up traffic for four days. A New Jersey State Assembly committee is investigating whether the aides ordered the lane closures as political retribution, and the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey has opened a probe into the matter.

For his part, Christie has said he didn't know about the scheme and was "embarrassed and humiliated" by it. Democrats, both in New Jersey and nationally, have jumped on the scandal, saying it finally gives the nation an opportunity to see what they've known for years, that Christie is a bully who governs by fear.

But as bad as the bridge scandal is for Christie, if investigators find he improperly spent Sandy funds, it could get far worse, tarnishing the signature achievement that has made him a serious contender for the White House.

CNN's Scott Bronstein contributed to this report.

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6 comments

  • dobydog1

    latest polls have him leading Hillary so why is it surprising that he is being attacked by the dems in power? But the feds will not investigate AP-gate, Fast and Furious-gate, IRS-gate, Benghazi-gate or obamacare-gate.

    • Kill The Poor

      By: ~ Charlie Reese ~

      Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and
      then campaign against them.

      Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are
      against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

      Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation
      and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

      You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The President does.

      You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on
      appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

      You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does.

      You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does.

      You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

      One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme
      Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are
      directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the
      domestic problems that plague this country.

      I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that
      problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its
      Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally
      chartered, but private, central bank.

      I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason.
      They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator,
      a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t
      care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The
      politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the
      lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine
      how he votes.

      Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that
      what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con
      regardless of party.

      What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive
      amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker,
      who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The
      President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to
      accept it.

      The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole
      responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and
      approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House?
      John Boehner. He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow
      House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If
      the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree
      to.

      It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot
      replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of
      incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic
      problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you
      fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the
      federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they
      want to exist.

      If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

      If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.

      If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it’s because they
      want them in Iraq and Afghanistan ….

      If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement
      plan not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way.

      There are no insoluble government problems.

      Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they
      hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and
      advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to
      regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let
      them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical
      forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them
      from doing what they take an oath to do.

      • WeBuiltThisCountry

        I think your ideas of the government are on point but your comment name “kill the poor” has me second guessing your outlook?Of course all politicians have a hidden agenda and it probably has something to do with the power.Some senators and president’s take pay decreases but the citizens end up getting taxed more.Major coporations receive ridiculous incentives in the process

  • Kaffie

    Totally Agree! It is just a ploy to block his contentions for the Presidential run. They need to be investigating more important things!

  • JT

    Woah, wait–I’m confused. Don’t all you Tea Partiers love to grouse about taxes and misappropriated money? I hear it all the time, “rabblerabble taxes are too high rabblerabble 2nd amendment rabblerabble Obama’s a Muslim rabblerabble the Mexicans took my job rabblerabble don’t want my taxes to pay for abortions rabblerabble Benjamin Franklin wasn’t crucified on the cross to see this great country elect rabblerabble tax and spend rabblerabble.” Seems like you “fiscal conservatives” would be outraged that one of your own misappropriated money. But, I’ve learned that you have to throw logic out the window when dealing with conservatives.

  • JT

    Webuilt, Killthepoor’s “handle” comes from the title of a song the punk rock band The Dead Kennedys wrote; the song dealt with Carter’s pushing the development of the neutron bomb. This bomb kills organic life and leaves infrastructure intact; what a great way to “gentriFRY” the inner cities and make them a good place for upper class whites to live. It also foreshadow’s Reagan’s policies of ignoring poor black people and using an overwhelming percentage of the budget to build nuclear weapons/Star Wars program. Incidentally, it seems to be the same domestic policy Governor Weaselface has regarding the poor in NC–we’ll just starve them out.

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