New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces new accusations of exacting retribution for political reasons after a city's mayor accused his administration of linking millions of dollars in recovery money for Hurricane Sandy to a politically connected project.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged on Saturday that Christie's lieutenant governor and a top community development official told her recovery funds would flow to her city if she allowed a commercial development project to move forward.
Christie is already embroiled in another scandal involving traffic jams apparently manufactured to settle a political score. That scandal has tarnished Christie's image as a straight-talking Republican capable of working across the partisan divide and it could threaten his standing as a leading potential presidential candidate in 2016.
Zimmer said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno pulled her aside at an event in May and told her Sandy aid was tied to the project - a proposal from the Rockefeller Group aimed at prime real estate in the densely populated city across the river from New York.
"I was directly told by the lieutenant governor - she made it very clear - that the Rockefeller project needed to move forward or they wouldn't be able to help me," Zimmer said.
Christie's office denied Zimmer's claims, calling her statements politically motivated. Spokesman Colin Reed said the administration has been helping Hoboken secure assistance since Sandy struck.
Christie was raising money at the weekend for fellow Republicans in Florida. The fundraisers were closed to reporters.
The Sandy aid matter is the second time in recent weeks Christie's administration has been accused of exacting retribution for political reasons.
Christie's chief of staff, chief counsel, chief political strategist and two-time campaign manager have all been subpoenaed for documents related to the September closing of approach lanes near the George Washington Bridge, which led to traffic chaos in the town of Fort Lee across the river from New York.
The agency that runs the bridge, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is chaired by David Samson, whose law firm, Wolff & Samson, represented the developer in the Hoboken matter, according to Zimmer.
Christie's job approval rating has fallen to its lowest level in 16 months, according to a poll released on January 15 by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. His job performance was rated positively by 55 per cent of New Jersey voters, down from 74 per cent in February 2013. President Barack Obama's job approval rating was 39 per cent in the latest Gallup Poll.
Christie also faces a federal audit over US$25 million in Hurricane Sandy relief money that went towards a TV commercial he appeared in to promote tourism. Democrats accused Christie of using the taxpayer-funded ads for free publicity.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg