$9 million in NJ Bridgegate investigations yield few new facts

SORRY: Gov. Chris Christie apologized in January for bridge lane closures at a press conference.

By Mark Lagerkvist | New Jersey Watchdog

The New Jersey Legislature’s investigation of the Bridgegate scandal has devolved into a partisan ruckus with few new facts as the total cost for state taxpayers nears $9 million.

A Democratic-controlled committee released a 136-page interim report Monday, admitting it had found no evidence to conclude Gov. Chris Christie was directly involved in the controversial lane closures on George Washington Bridge in September 2013.

Republicans on the committee issued a 120-page “minority statement” accusing the Democrats of dragging out a probe that began in January in an attempt to undermine the political fortunes of Christie, who is weighing a run for the White House in 2016.

Overall, Bridgegate investigations have cost the state $8.8 million, according to the dissenting Republicans. However, three-fourths of those funds — $6.5 million — actually were spent by Christie to pay for an internal probe in which the governor’s hand-picked investigators absolved him of wrongdoing.

The investigations were sparked by emails and other evidence indicating members of the governor’s inner circle orchestrated bridge lane closures, creating traffic nightmares in apparent retaliation against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse Christie in the 2013 election.

Christie fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and cut ties with campaign manager Bill Baroni for their roles in the scandal.

If there is a smoking gun that personally implicates Christie in the closures or ensuing cover-up, the legislative committee has yet to find it.

“Clearly, many critical questions remain,” said committee co-chair state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck. “We have repeatedly made an effort not to take steps that would interfere with the ongoing federal investigation, and in doing so have avoided calling key witnesses.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark has declined comment on its ongoing investigation. Christie’s press staff did not respond to New Jersey Watchdog’s request for comment.

The statement from GOP committee members accused Weinberg and co-chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Sayreville, of “using public resources to apparently carry out a national Democratic mission to destroy a popular Republican governor all the while advancing their own political ambitions.”

It was signed by state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, R-Cedar Grove; Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris; Assemblyman Amy Handlin, R-Middletown; and Assemblyman Holly T. Schepisi, R-River Vale.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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