Booker Hints at BridgeGate Probe as Dem Infighting Rises over Christie
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker hinted that Governor Chris Christie might be receiving a note or two from Congress regarding the highway closure scandal now known as BridgeGate. "There have been some inquiries from the Senate Commerce committee," he told PolitickerNJ yesterday.
Booker, a longtime ally of Christie as former Mayor of Newark, has only spoken once before of Governor Christie's scandal, merely noting that the emails released between former Christie senior aides Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein were "deeply troubling." Kelly had emailed Wildstein "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" shortly before Wildstein personally decreed a "traffic study" at the George Washington Bridge during Fort Lee's first week of school in September that caused four-hour traffic delays.
At an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day yesterday, Booker elaborated on the matter. "This needs to be investigated," he insisted on a different Christie scandal-- the accusation that Christie's office had threatened to deny Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer Hurricane Sandy assistance if she did not approve an ally's real estate project. "The Sandy money should not be politicized, and as we can see here there are a lot of people still struggling," he continued.
On the subject of the George Washington Bridge, Sen. Booker told the press that "there have been some inquiries into the scandal from the Senate Commerce committee, of which I'm a part." He did not elaborate on what his role would be in the investigation, or how deep the investigation would go, but merely hinted that Congress was watching the allegations of impropriety closely.
Booker and Christie have a long history of friendly relations. Christie and Booker appeared together in September as both were campaigning for their respective offices, while reports claimed Christie was avoiding campaigning for Booker's Republican opponent, former Bogota, NJ mayor Steve Lonegan. Some reports found evidence that the White House had a hand in preventing a clash between the two when Booker was rumored to have the potential for a gubernatorial run.
Booker is one of many in the contingent of prominent New Jersey Democrats who have found working with Christie a fruitful experience. Christie counts as his allies State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and a host of New Jersey assemblymen, state senators, and mayors. More hardline progressive Democrats like his gubernatorial opponent last year Barbara Buono, however, have taken offense to the way elements of the Democratic Party have turned more moderate under Christie's reign.
The Philadelphia Inquirer details the rift in the state party this week, one that threatens to engulf the Democrats for years to come far longer than Christie's tenure. On one end of the spectrum, Democrats who feel wronged by members of their party who supported Christie, like progressive Congressman Bill Pascrell, who accused Democrats who supported Christie of going "out of their way to spit in the eye of our own candidate." Pascrell, who represents Fort Lee, is one of the more vocal opponents of Christie and his Democratic cohorts on the record, as is Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage, who told the paper that the party was "swallowed up as a party by Gov. Christie's bully pulpit."
And then there are the Democrats who spoke to the Inquirer off the record, establishment Democrats who see anti-Christie Democrats as something akin to a "Tea Party wing" infiltrating their cohort, despite Christie not being an actual Democrat.
Booker's comment indicating he may find himself on a panel investigating BridgeGate may be the link that Democrats need to reconnect, which in itself proves how successful Christie had been in dividing the opposing party until his administration's indiscretions became national front-page news. Every outcome of this story hinges on the multiple corruption investigations finding a smoking gun. For BridgeGate, the emails out of Christie's office demanding a traffic jam seem more than enough; in the Sandy funds case, Dawn Zimmer is likely going to have to produce something more than her private, undated scribblings.