A review of the Port Authority’s operations suggests that it had been turned into a de facto political operation for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey long before the bridge scandal.
MARCH 11, 2014 (Updated March 13th and 20th)
For a state that lost hundreds of lives on Sept. 11, the gifts were emotionally resonant: pieces of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center. They were presented by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to 20 carefully chosen New Jersey mayors who sat atop a list of 100 whose endorsements Gov. Chris Christie hoped to win.
At photo opportunities around the mangled pieces of steel, Bill Baroni, Mr. Christie’s top staff appointee at the Port Authority, told audiences how many people wanted a similar remnant of the destroyed buildings, and how special these mayors were.
Mayors lower on the list of 100 — such as Mark Sokolich, of Fort Lee, at No. 45 — received other Port Authority perquisites: an intimate tour of the National September 11 Memorial, or the new World Trade Center construction site, or Port Authority money for jobs programs or new firefighting equipment, even in towns far from the port.
Mr. Christie and his allies at the Port Authority are now entangled in a scandal over the closing of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge — apparently a politically motivated move aimed at Mr. Sokolich, who had declined to endorse the governor. But long before the lane closings, the Port Authority — a bistate government agency financed by tolls and taxes — had already been turned into a de facto political operation for Governor Christie, a review of the agency’s operations since Mr. Christie took office suggests.
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