New Jersey politician denies ‘Sopranos-style’ approach to relief aid

Kim Guadagno accused of threatening to withhold Hurricane Sandy funds from Hoboken unless mayor supported project proposed by Rockefeller Group

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attends a swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., Jan. 17, 2014. Republican party leaders are urging Christie to let go of friends who have risen with him in state government, saying he should recruit a more saavy political team after his top aides were linked to the Fort Lee Bridge Scandal. (Jessica Kourkounis/The New York Times)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attends a swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., Jan. 17, 2014. Republican party leaders are urging Christie to let go of friends who have risen with him in state government, saying he should recruit a more saavy political team after his top aides were linked to the Fort Lee Bridge Scandal. (Jessica Kourkounis/The New York Times)

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 01:00


New Jersey’s second-highest ranking elected representative has shot back at allegations that she told a mayor in the state to support a delayed redevelopment project backed by governor Chris Christie in order to receive relief funds granted in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

In the latest twist in the scandal plaguing the Republican governor, the mayor of Hoboken Dawn Zimmer said in an interview with MSNBC that New Jersey lieutenant-governor Kim Guadagno told her the funds would be withheld unless she supported a project in the town proposed by the Rockefeller Group.

Ms Zimmer said that on May 13th, Ms Guadagno, Mr Christie’s Republican running mate, approached her in a car park of a Hoboken shop about the project with ties to Mr Christie and his aides, linking the project to the relief funds.

Ms Guadagno “pulled me aside . . . and she said, ‘I know it’s not right, I know these things shouldn’t be connected, but they are, and if you tell anyone, I’ll deny it’,” Ms Zimmer told MSNBC on Saturday.

The New Jersey lieutenant governor denied them “whole- heartedly,” yesterday, saying they were “completely false”.

“Mayor Zimmer’s version of our conversation in May of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined,” Ms Guadagno said at an event to mark Martin Luther King Jnr Day, a national holiday.


Shakedown
The US tabloid media likened the allegations made by Ms Zimmer about the state’s politics to a Sopranos-style shakedown, referring to the popular TV drama series based on the New Jersey Mafia.

The governor, whose landslide re-election in November made him favourite to be the next Republican presidential nominee, is already facing investigations by the state’s government and the US attorney over the closure of lanes to the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey in an act of political vengeance by his aides against a Democrat mayor.

Mr Christie said in an interview with Yahoo News that he was not angry he had been parodied by his hero, New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, and comic talk show host Jimmy Fallon, mocking the “Bridgegate” scandal in a song, but he had not watched the clip.

The governor tweeted lines from the interview yesterday, including one in which he said: “I’m going to learn from his. I can’t tell you yet what it is I’m going to learn, but I’m intent on learning from this.”

The scandal has drawn national attention as Mr Christie is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.