Democratic Congressman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is speaking out against the Christie administration for what he told The Daily Beast was the misuse of millions of dollars meant to help the New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy. The handling of that money, he says, has been “disturbing.”
Rep. Pallone is working with fellow New Jersey Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell to install an oversight mechanism over Hurricane Sandy fund distribution. He told the Daily Beast‘s Olivia Nuzzi that he felt embarrassed that the mismanagement and funneling of money to projects that had little to do with Hurricane Sandy “actually happened” the way that Republicans in 2012 argued it would. He expressed frustration at having to tell his constituents that Republicans “have been proven right” and added that “it’s very sad.”
Governor Chris Christie has come under fire in recent months from both victims of the hurricane and observers who have found that much of the money has not gone directly to families. A CNN report in January revealed that federal authorities were auditing the Governor for his use of funds, with some suspecting that it was inappropriate for Christie to prominently feature himself and his family in “Stronger than the Storm” tourism ads during an election. The ads led to a record-breaking year for New Jersey’s tourism industry.
Other investigations found that much of the money was going to areas that seemed affected very little by the hurricane. The town of New Brunswick, for example, received $5 million in Sandy aid for an apartment complex, despite barely experiencing the hurricane. The individual grant was representative of more than $47 million dollars that went to Essex and Middlesex counties, which are inland and saw little damage.
The distribution of funds also raised questions. One study revealed that the system used to distribute funds to individuals disproportionately rejected black and Latino applicants seeking funding to restore their homes.
The federal Hurricane Sandy relief bill was the subject of much controversy in 2012. The final bill contained amendments adding $10 million for FBI salaries, $150 million for fisheries nationwide, and $500 million for a national weather project having little to do with New Jersey. Conservative groups objected, arguing that the bill was laden with unnecessary pork, and Breitbart News’ Joel Pollak confronted Governor Christie about the concerns, which the Governor dismissed.
Rep. Pallone told the Daily Beast that oversight from the office of Housing and Urban Development was the only way to ensure that no more money was misspent or lost in the years following the disaster. He and Rep. Pascrell will be working with Republicans in Congress to establish an oversight mechanism soon, almost two years after the storm hit New Jersey.