David Sirota continues to do a bang-up job on the corruption and lies of one Christopher Christie, and I'm really enjoying it:
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was under fire. It was 2012 and the agency had just hiked tolls on area bridges and tunnels. Inside a hearing room on Capitol Hill, the Port Authority's deputy chief, Bill Baroni, was absorbing withering criticism from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the late New Jersey Democrat.
Lautenberg carried a reputation as the political nemesis of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who had appointed Baroni to his perch. Baroni swiftly attacked the senator: How could Lautenberg justify his opposition to raising tolls when he had himself enjoyed free passage across area bridges and tunnels?
"Respectfully, Senator, you only started paying tolls recently," Baroni said, according to a transcript of the exchange. "In fact, I have a copy of your free E-ZPass," he continued, holding up a physical copy of the toll pass Lautenberg had received as a benefit from his tenure as a Port Authority commissioner. "You took 284 trips for free in the last 2 years you had a pass."
Within days, Christie himself disclosed further detailed information about Lautenberg’s private travel records. At a press conference, he alleged that the senator didn't "pay for parking at Port Authority facilities" and said Lautenberg went "through the tunnel to New York three or four times a week in 2005 and 2006."
A year later, the Christie administration's relationship with the Port Authority would burst into public view as the centerpiece of a scandal known as Bridgegate, in which the governor's staff allegedly conspired with the transportation overseer to close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, generating traffic jams as punishment for communities whose elected officials had not amply supported the governor.
Christie has repeatedly dismissed the episode as a rogue decision by his staff, maintaining that he was not consulted and would never have authorized such a stunt.
At the time, the discussion of Lautenberg's travel history seemed like just another prop in the confrontational style of politics that dominates New Jersey. But the data that Baroni and But the exchange with Lautenberg and Christie's direct citation of his personal travel records underscore the degree to which his administration was already using the Port Authority as an instrument in his famously hard-nosed brand of politics.Christie unleashed in assailing Lautenberg was not publicly available. Indeed, in a recent letter responding to an open records request, the Port Authority deemed those very same travel records off-limits to the public. Tim Feeney, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, confirmed to International Business Times that under New Jersey law, E-ZPass records can be obtained only with a civil court order or criminal subpoena.
Christie’s office rebuffed an open records request from IBTimes seeking the data about Lautenberg's E-ZPass usage that the governor had himself detailed at a 2012 press conference, asserting that it had no such records. Neither Baroni, Christie nor the Port Authority responded to questions about how they had been able to obtain such details.
Man, Bill Baroni is really a complete political weasel. Watch this related exchange: