The so-called „Bridgegate“ scandal, an alleged political revenge act carried out by Chris Christie’s inner circle, may keep the Governor of New Jersey from running for President in 2016.
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By rjspoetta & vvogelauer
The closure of George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City and Fort Lee (N.J.) and the gridlock it caused has gradually turned into a severe political scandal surrounding the Christie administration. Internal E-Mails by Ms. Kelly, former deputy chief of staff for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in Mr. Christie’s office, is said to have deliberately (ab)used a traffic survey for a political revenge act. The mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich (D), had refused to endorse Gov. Christie’s re-election campaign beforehand. In September 2013, Ms. Kelly told a colleague it was time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. Further E-Mail correspondence showed that people within the Governor’s office intended to simply punish the mayor of Fort Lee with said lane closures. (You can find further information here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/nyregion/christie-aide-tied-to-bridge-lane-closings.html)
First of all, one should clarify that Mr. Christie’s involvement in this political revenge act of September 2013 is unclear. We simply do not know what he really did and what he knew. Nevertheless, there are a few political problems for Mr. Christie to solve.
Mr. Christie’s reputation and popularity in New Jersey are based on his competence and credibility. The lane closures leave him in a difficult position: If he knew about the correspondence, although he assured in public that he was completely surprised, embarrassed and humiliated by the scandal, his public credibility and honesty would be damaged dramatically. This depends on whether Ms. Kelly will acknowledge or deny Christie’s involvement in the bridge closure scandal. But if he had indeed been left in the dark, his competence as a political leader would be challenged, at the latest during the G.O.P. primaries. So, if chances are he will be confronted by the ghosts of his past, why start a Presidential campaign at all?
Yet, polls show that the public opinion about Chris Christie has not changed. Only 18 per cent of the questioned people say that they paid close attention to the scandal, while 16 per cent indicated they had a worse impression of Mr. Christie by now. So the damage for Mr. Christie’s image is in fact not as bad as some reports might suggest. As a moderate conservative Republican and possible Presidential candidate, he still is very interesting for donators from Wall Street. Intelligibly, businesses at the N.Y.S.E. prefer a conservative President, but not someone emerging from the dangerously radical Tea Party. Nevertheless, why invest in a candidate who is vulnerable over a political scandal? (An article about the polls can be found here: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/chris-christie-poll-102110.html)
Additionally, the bridge closure scandal is not the biggest problem for the New Jersey Governor, but the audit concerning the funds for coping damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Christie has been accused of misusing money from these funds. Allegedly, his office used public aid money to promote New Jersey as a touristic hotspot. This could cause far greater damage than the closure of George Washington Bridge for political reasons. But with the bridge scandal as a kind of catalyser, the interest in this audit is far more dangerous for Mr. Christie. This whole affair is potentially dangerous not only to the Christie Presidential campaign 2016 but it may also lead to his resignation.