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Will a Second Bridge Scandal Rock Chris Christie's Administration?

Investigators wonder whether the NJ governor's office tricked bond investors by miscasting a state-run bridge as a multi-state project.
 
 
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Perhaps this time, Chris Christie took a bridge too far? The New York Times is reporting that an investigation is underway into whether there were felony securities law violations involving the Pulaski Skyway bridge.

This investigation is a spinoff of the ongoing Bridgegate Scandal, the political-payback scheme that has rocked the second-term Governor’s administration. The investigation into why political allies and Christie Administration officials purposely snarled traffic on the George Washington Bridge has engulfed Christie, a potential contender for the Presidency.

The new investigation stems from the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office, which is working with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Reportedly, the investigation’s focuses on the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

According to the New York Times, investigators are looking into whether bondholders were purposely tricked into a $1.8 billion agreement in 2011 to repair the Pulaski Skyway Bridge, which connects Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey’s two largest cities.

Documents show that the Port Authority wrapped the bridge project into funding for "Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements," although the Skyway is more than 9 miles the tunnel, which connects New Jersey to New York.

Christie’s administration used Port Authority money to repair the Skyway, although the Skyway is not property of the Authority, which builds and maintains infrastructure projects that benefit commerce and transportation between New York and New Jersey. The Skyway is a New Jersey state roadway not eligible for funds from the bi-state authority. This, it seems, did not stop Christie’s staff from recasting the bridge as an access route to the tunnel to secure funding.

New York investigators looking into whether this miscast is a violation of a New York State law called the Martin Act, which carries felony charges for intentionally deceiving investors and bondholders.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the George Washington Bridge scandal continues. Investigators believe it may have been orchestrated by Christie staffers and allies in retaliation against a town Mayor who did not endorse Christie's re-election bid. For four days, traffic was snarled in that town, Fort Lee, delaying commuters, emergency vehicles and school buses. Some Thruway Authority and Christie Administration officials have resigned or were fired in the wake of the scandal's revelation. 

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on Facebook.

 
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