Oh, the irony. During the debate on Hurricane Sandy relief, some Republicans objected to the pork included in the funding — money for fisheries in Alaska, for instance, which was thousands of miles from the impact zone, and Washington DC museum roof repair that had nothing to do with the hurricane. Even while Michael Bloomberg told New Yorkers that their frustration over the funding debate should be aimed at the porkers in Congress, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie blasted his fellow Republicans over their reluctance to support the emergency relief bill, 25% of which went to pork.
A year later, federal investigators are looking into Christie’s handling of the cash:
Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds.
CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used those relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family. …
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.
In an August letter, Pallone asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general to look into how Christie chose to spend the marketing money approved by the department. …
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.
Had the Sandy relief funding been distributed on time, this may not have had much resonance. However, despite Congress approving more than $50 billion in aid (and pork), many of Sandy’s victims are still without the relief funds they need. That gives Pallone a big political opening, regardless of what he says about politics not playing a part in it, but it doesn’t necessarily make him wrong about pushing the probe either.
What about the Republicans? Christie burned a lot of bridges in that debate, and in his embrace (literally) of Obama in those final days of the 2012 election. Ironically, it’s the Obama administration that is widening its probe into the use of those funds now. Don’t expect too many Republicans to rush to Christie’s side in this fight, except to point out that the $2.2 million difference between the two advertising campaign proposals amounts to 0.041% of the porkfest Barack Obama and Chris Christie demanded from Congress for Sandy relief. There may be a lot of reasons why victims haven’t seen their Sandy aid yet, but this ad campaign isn’t one of them.