U.S. attorney subpoenas N.J. GOP, Christie campaign group

Gov. Christie speaks during his visit to Dudley Elementary School in Camden, but he did not mention the bridge scandal or allegations from the mayor of Hoboken over post-Sandy state aid.
Gov. Christie speaks during his visit to Dudley Elementary School in Camden, but he did not mention the bridge scandal or allegations from the mayor of Hoboken over post-Sandy state aid. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 25, 2014

TRENTON - The U.S. Attorney's Office has issued subpoenas to Gov. Christie's reelection campaign and the New Jersey Republican State Committee as part of its review of September lane closures at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, an attorney for the two organizations said Thursday.

A legislative committee issued subpoenas to the campaign - and to 19 other individuals and organizations - last week as part of the lawmakers' own inquiry into the matter.

Federal prosecutors have also issued subpoenas to some of those same individuals and groups, the New York Times reported.

"The campaign and the state party intend to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the state legislative committee, and will respond to the subpoenas accordingly," Robert Luskin, a lawyer with the Washington-based firm Patton Boggs, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the campaign deferred to Patton Boggs. A spokesman for the GOP committee could not be reached Thursday evening.

Christie appeared in Camden on Thursday, to promote an after-school meals program. He did not take reporters' questions.

Documents released this month by legislators suggest that Christie allies plotted to shut down most access lanes leading from Fort Lee to the bridge in an apparent act of political retribution against the borough's Democratic mayor, possibly because he did not endorse the Republican governor for reelection.

Christie has denied involvement in or knowledge of the alleged scheme, and John Wisniewski (D., Middlesex), the assemblyman leading the legislative investigation, has emphasized that no evidence directly implicates the governor.

But the scandal - exacerbated by allegations made by the mayor of Hoboken that the Christie administration threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief aid if she did not advance a politically connected development project - has sapped energy from the popular governor's political ascent. Prior to the scandal, some Republicans had anointed Christie the party's savior and front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination.

"I think the Christie administration understood this was probably where things were going," Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said of the new subpoenas.

"This is all new ground," Dworkin said of the two inquiries. "Everybody's trying to figure out how it will work. . . . There's no historical example, at least in modern New Jersey politics, where you have this all going on."

Stuart Green, a professor of criminal law at Rutgers-Newark Law School, said prosecutors and legislators ought to be able to pursue parallel tracks.

"They're both seeking the same documents. You just get your Xerox machine and you make two copies," he said.

While state investigators typically defer to federal ones, Green said nothing would necessarily compel the Legislature to comply with such a request.

Lawmakers have pledged to continue their investigation, and on Monday, they are scheduled to hold a vote on a resolution to establish a joint committee that would focus on the bridge scandal.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said this month that it was reviewing the matter to determine whether any federal laws had been broken.

A spokeswoman for the office said Thursday: "Our office can neither confirm nor deny taking specific actions."

The U.S. attorney for New Jersey is Paul J. Fishman, an appointee of President Obama. Fishman, a Democrat, was an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey from 1983 to 1994 and has also served as a senior adviser to the U.S. attorney general.

Christie was U.S. attorney before becoming governor. As the state's top law enforcement official, Christie led high-profile corruption prosecutions, including the 2008 conviction of powerful Democratic State Sen. Wayne Bryant of Camden County on public corruption and fraud charges. Bryant was released from prison in 2012.


aseidman@phillynews.com

856-779-3846

@AndrewSeidman

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