Gov. Chris Christie faces dual inquiries ahead of State of the State address
TRENTON - Gov. Chris Christie did not make any public appearances Monday as he prepared for the first State of the State address of his new term, but two significant investigations still swirl around his administration.
Lawmakers in Trenton are turning up the heat on the scandal that has become known as Bridge-Gate with the announcement of two bi-partisan committees.
On Thursday, a panel from each chamber will begin digging deeper into allegations that controversial lane closures at the George Washington Bridge were political payback, ordered and carried out by associates of Gov. Christie.
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Outside legal counsel will be brought in, and recently fired Christie-insiders Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien will likely be subpoenaed to testify.
"This has become larger than a transportation issue," says Assem. Vince Prieto, "and that is the reason that we're creating this super committee."
At the same time, Rep. Frank Pallone is questioning the validity of commercials that aired last summer featuring the governor and his family enjoying the Jersey Shore and encouraging post-Sandy tourism.
Not only was the governor seeking re-election at the time, but Pallone says the ads could have been produced for a power price.
"Normally if you're a government agency you take the low bidder," Pallone says. The state paid an advertising firm $4.7 million for the commercial. The Sigma Group, which offered to do the ad for $2 million would not have included the governor and his family.
The ads were paid for with money from a Federal Community Block Grant which was to be used for rebuilding homes.
"I don't think it was necessary to spend an extra $2 million in order to put his name and his family in the ads," Pallone says. "I don't think it was more effective."
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is looking into the ads. In a statement, Christie's administration stands behind the ads, saying the campaign helped get New Jersey back on its feet.