Already embroiled in a scandal over a punitive traffic jam, federal officials are investigating whether New Jersey Governor Chris Christie misused some of the $25 million given to his state for Hurricane Sandy relief. Specifically, they are looking at $4.7 million that was spent on a tourism commercial that featured him and his family.
According to a report from CNN, the inquiry into the funds came from New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, who wrote a letter back in August asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general to look at how Christie used marketing money paid for by Sandy recovery money.
Pallone's alleges that Christie played favorites, picked a marketing firm that may have been over-charging, and possibly picked the firm because it would feature him and his family during an election year:
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.
Christie was generally lauded for his performance during and in the wake of Hurricane Sandy (and his buddy act with President Obama did them both a lot of favors.) But if any wrongdoing is found, it could unravel one of the strongest items of his political résumé.
Pallone's argument is that the $2 million that was spent could have directly gone to Sandy victims. "This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery. 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," he told CNN.
The investigation comes on the heels of Christie's "Bridgeghazi" scandal — he and his staff are being investigated as to whether or not they purposely caused traffic jams to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse Christie. The undertone in both controversies, and what Christie will have to fight, is an image of him being a bully who goes out of his way to punish his political enemies, while rewarding his friends. According to CNN, the audit will take several months.