Chris Christie caught in another bridge-related tangle
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
That’s precisely the attitude held by many after revelations that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was (allegedly) part of not only the now-infamous “Bridgegate” closures, but also some less-than-honest dealings regarding the Pulaski Skyway, a bridge connecting Newark and Jersey City.
Late last month, just as a nationwide PR blitz was beginning to stabilize Christie’s reputation, The New York Times’ Matt Flegenheimer, William Rashbaum and Kate Zerninke broke the story on the new allegations:
The inquiries into securities law violations focus on a period of 2010 and 2011 when Gov. Chris Christie’s administration pressed the Port Authority to pay for extensive repairs to the Skyway and related road projects, diverting money that was to be used on a new Hudson River rail tunnel that Mr. Christie canceled in October 2010.
Again and again, Port Authority lawyers warned against the move: The Pulaski Skyway, they noted, is owned and operated by the state, putting it outside the agency’s purview, according to dozens of memos and emails reviewed by investigators and obtained by The New York Times.
But the Christie administration relentlessly lobbied to use the money for the Skyway, with Mr. Christie announcing publicly that the state planned to rely on Port Authority funds even before an agreement was reached. Eventually, the authority justified the Skyway repairs by casting the bridge as an access road to the Lincoln Tunnel, even though they are not directly connected.
While a close look at the facts will tell you this scenario is completely different from the George Washington Bridge closures Christie stands accused of orchestrating, to the average news consumer it appears as if Christie is smack dab in the middle of Bridgegate Part Deux with the Skyway revelations. In fact, a poll on New Jersey news site NJ.com shows 84% of the nearly 2,000 readers polled believe the second bridge-related investigation will hurt Christie’s chances should he make a bid for the presidency in 2016 as expected.
A key aspect of crisis management is dragging all of the skeletons out of your closet before someone else does it for you. After the furor surrounding Bridgegate left supporters and donors shaken, Christie made the rounds telling everyone they had nothing to worry about, but now that new accusations have emerged how do you think those stakeholders are feeling?
We’ve certainly had presidents involved with more scandalous incidents than this, but if Christie’s reputation continues to slide downhill he may never get the chance to make a run at the Oval Office at all.
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[Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]