More Trouble For Chris Christie as Feds Probe Use of Sandy Relief Funds

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 13 2014 10:08 AM

More Trouble For Chris Christie as Feds Probe Use of Sandy Relief Funds

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) shakes a man's hand during a meeting with first responders at Sayreville Engine Company #1 on the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2013 in Sayreville, New Jersey

Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Still facing questions about Bridgeghazi, Chris Christie has a new/old headache this morning. CNN reports that federal officials are currently investigating accusations that the New Jersey governor improperly used millions of dollars in Hurricane Sandy relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.

Those accusations have been made by Democrats before—and it's worth remembering that at the moment they're just that: accusations—but the fact that the feds are now digging around will breath fresh life into the whole thing, all the more so given all of the attention currently focused on the George Washington Bridge. (Of course, it's also important to note that the investigation originated with a lawmaker on the other side of the aisle, a New Jersey Democrat with a history of criticizing his state's Republican governor.)

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Here's CNN with the details of the investigation:

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. ...
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.

It was Christie's strong performance in the wake of the superstorm that helped him both sail to reelection in the Garden State and establish him as one of the early front-runners for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. If the feds find Christie misused the relief money, that would obviously change the narrative around one of the governor's signature accomplishments. If nothing else, the probe opens a second front for his critics who are already on the offensive over the bridge scandal.

According to Pallone, the HUD inspector general has already finished a preliminary review of the Sandy spending and decided that there is enough evidence to call for a full-scale investigation. That audit is expected to take several months, however, so it could be summer before the IG's office issues its final report on the matter.

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This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.