Federal investigators looking into post-Sandy tourist ads with NJ Gov. Chris Christie and family

By Daniel S Levine,

Federal investigators are reportedly looking into how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used Hurricane Sandy relief funds, specifically at the decision to use millions of taxpayer dollars on tourist advertisements that featured him and his family.

The news comes just days after his staff was linked to September’s sudden lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. That is already being investigated by the U.S. Attorney and New Jersey lawmakers as possible retaliation for a mayor who didn’t support Christie in 2012.

Now, this latest probe is into how Christie’s administration used $25 million in Hurricane Sandy relief that went to advertisements, reports CNN. Specifically, investigators will look at how a $4.7 million bid beat out a $2.5 million bid to create tourism ads for New Jersey. The $4.7 million plan had ads with Christie and his family, while the lower bid did not. New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone told CNN that he had sent a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general, which has sparked the investigation.

According to The Asbury Park Press, which had looked into the bidding process in August, Pallone said that a preliminary investigation was already concluded, finding that there is evidence to launch a full federal investigation.

“This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery,” Pallone told CNN. “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.”

When the ads aired before Christie’s successful November re-election bid, they were widely criticized. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky called for a HUD investigation in November, reports USA Today, suggesting that it was a “conflict of interest.”

If the federal investigation finds that the Christie administration was guilty of wrongdoing in this case, it could further hurt his chances for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016.

image: Wikimedia Commons

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