WASHINGTON, January 13, 2014 — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is in trouble. Members of the governor’s staff used bully tactics to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who refused to support the governor’s reelection bid. Now it seems that presidential hopeful Christie may have misused Hurricane Sandy relief money to pay for a tourism commercial that featured him and his family.
Christie allegedly spent $4.7 million on the tourism ad through a direct, no-bid contract, rejecting a $2.5 million bid from and ad firm whose proposal did not feature Christie. Democrats claim that the ad, which ran last summer, gave Christie an unfair advantage going into the November election.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has decided to direct their inspector general to audit the project. The IG will demand answers and detailed information regarding the allegations of embezzlement.
The American people deserve answers. If Christie abused his power to punish a local mayor for not supporting him, or if he misused federal funds to get himself on camera, he needs to be held accountable. If Republicans want to be taken seriously, they need to be active in these investigations and show the nation that the take such allegations seriously. If the allegations turn out to be true, they must show that they support the law. Anyone who is corrupt at the state level will be corrupt at the federal level. The American people deserve to know.
But while we are at it, why don’t we look at every allegation of corruption and abuse and send federal investigators to look into them.
After Hurricane Sandy, $60 billion were promised to the relief of victims and the rebuilding of the stricken area. Of that $60 billion, perhaps $20 billion made it through, while the rest went to areas of the country and causes that had little or nothing to do with the storm. The original bill included $150 million for fisheries, which did not have to be in areas affected by the storm. $3.5 billion went to the Army Corps of Engineers to make provisions against future storms; have they done $3.5 billion in work?
Almost $20 billion went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for grants to rebuild houses in affected areas. As of October, there were still many people who lost their homes, yet had not received one dime of relief money. $5.4 billion went to federal transportation grants; where has that money gone, and has the federal government spent it on repairing Hurricane Sandy damage? It has been over a year since the Sandy relief bill was passed, so where is the special investigator here?
We should put Christie’s scandals in perspective. If Bridgegate and the tourism ad are venal, what should we say about using the IRS as a political weapon, or assassinating American teenagers abroad? Is closing some bridge lanes worse than providing guns to Mexican drug gangs?
And then there is Syria.
President Obama has pledged over $100 million to aid the Syrian rebels in their civil war against President Bashar al-Assad. According to Breitbart.com, which cites USAID numbers on the subject, the United States had given the Syrian Opposition over $1 billion in aid by September.
The Syrian Opposition forces are now in a state of internal strife as Islamic groups aligned with al-Qaeda seize control of the fight against Assad; they have become the main group to challenge the Syrian president. In November, seven of the largest Islamist rebel groups dissolved and reformed under a single banner, calling themselves the Islamist Front. The IF numbers up to one hundred thousand fighters.
Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups were responsible for the 9/11 attacks against America. However, the Obama Administration has decided that the al-Qaeda-aligned opposition groups will receive both lethal and non-lethal aid. Some aid stopped only when the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, captured key points in the northern part of the country, forcing a halt in aid.
The president has known about the presence of Islamist fighters within the opposition, as it was he who waived the statute which would have prevented him from providing aid to known terrorist organizations. He is allowed to waive the law if he can prove that not providing these groups with aid constitutes a grave and growing threat to the United States. Apparently the president met this burden and gave himself the all-clear to arm terrorists at taxpayer expense.
Under a provision of the Arms Control Export Act, the President of the United States is required, upon waiving the terrorist statute, to provide certain members of Congress and the Senate with end-user reports of who received aid from the United States and where that aid is now. In the case of lethal aid, the president and his team must account for everything on the list they provide, and take every precaution to ensure that such aid is not used against American interests.
Thus far, it does not appear than any such report exists. To all appearances, the United States is now a state sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism in Syria. Little has been explained to us about how supplying terrorists with aid has benefitted us as a nation, or how it has fulfilled the requirement to “acting in the best interest of the United States.”
Perhaps an investigator should be assigned to look into possible abuses of the Arms Control Export Act, and ask how $1 billion of taxpayer money has been spent to support America’s enemy in war. $1 billion of taxpayer money unaccounted for should be enough to get congressional and public attention, but that is not apparently the case. Perhaps if it were only $2 million, people would take notice.
The most flagrant abuse of public trust and taxpayer money is Healthcare.gov. This project was awarded to Canadian software company CGI on a no-bid contract of $93 million. CGI is currently under investigation in Canada, as well as in several states in the U.S., for failing to deliver a useable and affordable product. Despite this, the United States government awarded them the contract which would support the president’s signature initiative.
Three years and a disastrous rollout later, the price-tag on the project has climbed from $93 million to roughly $640 million. That is a difference of over a half a billion dollars. As far as the public knows, there is no penalty for liquidated damages; there has been no lawsuit filed to recover the half billion dollars in overages the U.S. taxpayers paid for this defective product. There is no investigation into the relationship between Michelle Obama and an executive for CGI who happens to be her former classmate. There is no interest in the contributions made in 2012 to Obama’s reelection campaign by the CEO of CGI .
Perhaps we should demand that a federal investigator look into CGI and their relationship with the Obama Administration, as well as the half billion dollars that were spent over contract value. It might be instructive for us to learn how such an enormous sum was spent on a product that does not work properly. We would all be interested to know what the government is doing to get that money back.
These are just a few examples of what, in addition to Bridgegate, should excite investigators at the Justice Department and other agencies. These things — with the IRS, gun-running and the NSA — look large compared to lane closings and $2 million extra spent on a tourism ad. The Healthcare.gov website alone cost three hundred times that amount.
The attacks on Christie are a political move. As scandal started to creep up on Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, this tourism-ad-turned-campaign-ad scandal conveniently appeared. How is it possible that a federal investigation was initiated so quickly on a $2 million indiscretion when it took months to assign investigators to the IRS and Benghazi?
If Chris Christie misused public money and is guilty of organizing lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, he deserves what he gets. But nothing highlights hypocrisy and blatant political maneuvering more than when the president sends a government investigator to look into allegations of misuse of power, when he himself has yet to take responsibility for any of his actions.
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw investigators at governors.