The political press devoted nearly all of its attention on Tuesday to President Obama’s State of the Union address, which meant embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had a rare respite from what has been, for weeks now, unrelentingly negative coverage. But as has been the case almost since the moment the “Bridgegate” story first broke, there was still the drip, drip, drip of embarrassing or potentially troublesome reports on the Christie administration — they just received less attention than usual.
Here’s the latest you need to know:
- A Bergen Record report uncovered a series of potentially questionable real estate deals conducted by Chris Christie’s brother, Todd Christie (whom you may recall from his defensive Facebook posts). The deals in question concerned a handful of properties that are within walking distance of the Harrison, N.J., PATH station, which just so happens to be in line for a $256 million renovation funded by the Port Authority.
- A Tuesday Star-Ledger report raised some serious questions about how Christie has been using the $1.8 billion in federal government funds he was given by Congress to repair damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy. While these funds are explicitly to be used only for storm repair, the Star-Ledger found that as much as $6 million from the fund was doled out for a development project in the town of Belleville that was in the works long before Sandy hit. Incidentally, the Democratic mayor of Belleville, who strongly supported said development project, went on to endorse Christie’s reelection less than two weeks after the Sandy funds were given.
- A Wednesday New York Times report took a harder look at Christie’s political operation and found more than a couple of people who were deeply skeptical of Christie’s claims of complete ignorance over the closure of lanes at the George Washington Bridge. According to the Times, Christie’s team used a sophisticated and thorough system to track and categorize New Jersey mayors whom they wanted to endorse the Republican incumbent. More important, the Times discovered that Christie’s political operation was hardly walled-off from his governing, and painted a picture of Christie as a details-oriented and hands-on executive.
- Passing somewhat under the radar, another New York Times report from earlier this week shared the story of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s “smear” campaign against artist and government contractor Daniel Aubrey. Guadagno, you’ll recall, is the woman Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has accused of transmitting Christie’s message that Hoboken would not receive the level of Superstorm Sandy recovery funds it required until Zimmer agreed to approve a private development deal the governor favored.
- Meanwhile, Mitt Romney appeared on Fox News on Tuesday and defended Christie from charges of being a bully. He argued Christie wasn’t a bully so much as a strong leader. As a historical comparison, Romney likened Christie’s governing style to that of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. For those who don’t know (which apparently includes Romney) LBJ is famous for, among other things, being a world-historical bully.