New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie will speak at 2014’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the American Conservative Union (ACU) announced late Sunday. The ACU’s decision to invite Christie comes after he was denied a speaking slot in 2013 and amid a scandal over politically motivated highway lane closures that may jeopardize the rough-and-tumble Governor’s political future.
“We are very excited to announce that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will speak at CPAC 2014,” ACU chairman Al Cardenas said in a statement. “At this year’s CPAC — and through our theme ‘ACU’s Golden Anniversary: Getting It Right for 50 Years’ — we will celebrate how conservatism has shaped our past and look to the future with excitement.”
Christie’s speaking at CPAC will come as he deals with further probing into the scandal in which members of his gubernatorial administration and his political team closed traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, allegedly for political reasons. In an unusually lengthy press conference, Christie categorically denied having known anything about the matter. He fired his deputy chief of staff for her involvement, and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein resigned in December.
Through a lawyer late last week, Wildstein challenged Christie’s press conference denial of the scandal. In a letter reported by The New York Times, Wildstein’s lawyer wrote that the lane closure decision was “the Christie administration’s order” and “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference.”
Christie’s office denied Wildstein’s assertions. “Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer confirms what the Governor has said all along – he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein’s motivations were for closing them to begin with,” a statement from his office in response to Wildstein’s lawyer read, continuing:
As the Governor said in a December 13th press conference, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press and as he said in his January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of January 8th. The Governor denies Mr. Wildstein’s lawyer’s other assertions.
Christie’s stature as a GOP presidential candidate in 2016 has been hurt amid this scandal, but CPAC could provide a major platform to attempt to repair some of the damage done to his political future.
Also speaking at CPAC – which will take place from March 6 to March 8 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, right outside Washington, D.C.- are other likely 2016 GOP presidential contenders, such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and businessman Donald Trump.