We already know that if Chris Christie doesn’t like the rules, he won’t follow them. Scandals under investigation by both federal and state officers (including a federal grand jury investigating possible criminal charges) are looking at possible gross violations of ethical conduct, abuse of power and possibly even illegal acts that may have been committed by Christie or by his close operatives in an administration we know he holds the reins tight. Today we find out – poof! – rules everybody else has to play by have been pushed aside so yet another friend of the Governor’s can rake in the cash. And once again, who do we see right in the middle of it? Michele Brown.
I think Alec McGillis said it best: Chris Christie’s entire career reeks. McGillis’ profile of Christie’s “rise and fall” in the New Republic chronicled the Governor’s sleazebag career, where Christie’s cronyism not only bested good government and honorable service but ensured repeatedly that he wouldn’t do the right thing.
Plenty of people around him expect to get what’s coming to them, and plenty have: Chris Christie becomes governor, Chris Christie’s friends get rich. We said it plenty. And early. Now we watch the press tear at the way Christie’s pals are profiting. Like APP did in both straight reporting and editorial.
Today, something new. Via the British Guardian and its stateside reporter Jon Swain, we see that the Christie administration is forking over a $105.6 million subsidy so a close friend and financial backer of the Governor’s can develop a hotel and office complex in Paterson and rake in millions in rental revenues. Looks like NJ law was amended to enable the project to qualify for funding.
Who’s the guy? Jon Hanson. Real estate tycoon who headed the fundraising operations for Christie’s campaigns, chairs a policy commission for him, and is a longstanding Republican donor. Because of course.
Available funding, as per the original rules, was only to be made available inside a zone mapped out in Paterson, with requirements for job creation and generating future tax revenue. The project didn’t appear to meet those requirements. Paterson mayor Jeffery Jones thinks Hanson’s firm may have gotten a “special sweetheart deal” and that he’s not clear “that this is a clean process.”
The Guardian reports the law governing the funding was amended until Hanson’s project qualified, with the venture now slated to get a $105.6M tax break – covering 75% of total costs – from Christie’s Economic Development Authority (EDA). Headed by Michele Brown. Same woman who got a $46,000 unreported loan from Christie while she was working for him in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Same woman who was with Christie and his family when he was pulled over for speeding and found to be driving an unregistered, uninsured vehicle where he threw his weight around and told the cop he was the law too. Same woman, installed as EDA head despite zero relevant professional experience (at much higher salary than her predecessor). Who then green lighted several million dollars extra for Stronger than the Storm ads featuring Christie over a less costly proposal that didn’t (the contract’s being audited by the federal government to determine if it was awarded to boost his re-election).
Jones wants the state legislature to investigate. They’re a little busy investigating Christie’s other malarkey, but I think he has a point.