New Jersey’s emperor has no fleece

 (Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

(Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

Bridgegate may have the catchier name, but it’s Christie’s ties to the misuse of Hurricane Sandy funds that could do him in.

Many months ago there was a vain emperor who cared only about his appearance and how he was viewed across the land. He was approached by two swindlers who promised him the finest fleece made out of a fabric invisible to anyone except the hopelessly stupid.

No one in the emperor’s staff could see his new fleece, nor could the storytellers and historians recording his every move. But they pretended to love it out of fear of appearing unfit for their positions. One day he marched in front of the people of the land, who also played along, not wanted to suffer payback for being labeled as an idiot by the emperor.

Then suddenly the emperor walked towards a bridge filled with angry townspeople stuck in traffic, who were so frustrated with keeping up the pretense they blurted out that the emperor wasn’t wearing a fleece at all — he was buck naked! Everyone laughed and began to take up the cry, but the embarrassed emperor just looked forward and continued his procession.

Okay, so there was no bridge in Hans Christian Anderson’s popular children’s tale, but with news that Chris Christie is going to host his first town hall since the Bridgegate scandal, doesn’t he seem like that rattled emperor, trying to trudge along when everyone in the state can see right through him?

Bridgegate may have unleashed the hounds, but it’s the slow-trickle of Sandy-related malfeasance that could harm the wounded emperor the most. Remember, he built his popularity largely on his leadership during the aftermath of Sandy, and his ability to embrace President Obama and chastise members of his own party endeared him to supporters statewide. Christie had built a shinny new suit of armor which was intended to carry him through the primaries and onto the presidency.

Unfortunately, the first chinks in the emperor’s armor began to form during Christie’s re-election campaign, when he used Sandy Relief money to create a commercial that featured him and his family on the beach. The fact that the winning bid cost almost twice as much as the losing one and went to a politically connected firm, which Christie claims was important “in helping New Jersey get back on its feet,” is something the feds are currently looking into.

Next, the Fair Share Housing Center released a report indicating that minorities were denied assistance from two major Sandy relief programs at higher rates than their white counterparts. Christie dismissed their report out of hand, claiming the numbers were just “statistical anomalies” and that the report, obviously written by idiots, wasn’t worth his time or breath.

It might seem surprising at first that Mr. Fleece wouldn’t care about hardships being placed on Sandy victims. But keep in mind it took Christie nearly a year to put in place a law requiring close oversight of Sandy relief money and independent monitors to oversee how the state distributed billions of dollars in aid. Even worse, one of the monitors hired by Christie was Ernst & Young, where his brother Todd works as director of its Northeast practice market. No, nothing appears improper there.

Then Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer went on Steve Kornaci’s MSNBC show and accused Christie of withholding Sandy money until a favored development deal was pushed through. The Christie administration calls her a liar, but when pressed on the numbers, “State officials could not point to any large sums that they had decided to grant to Hoboken from that $290 million” ( There’s also the convenient fact that the development group hired the law firm of David Samson, who happens to be Christie’s top appointee to the Port Authority.

Critics have assailed Zimmer for switching her stories. (She initially suggested on WNYC that Christie may have withheld Sandy funds because she didn’t endorse him.) That may be true, but how do they explain how hard-hit Hoboken received almost none of the federal funds set aside to aide for Sandy recovery, yet $4.8 million went to fund a luxury apartment tower in New Brunswick seemingly unrelated to Superstorm Sandy?

It must just be a coincidence (again) that the complex is being pushed by a developer with strong political ties to both Christie and Sen. Cory Booker.

The allegations don’t stop there. Christie also seems to have channeled $6 million in Sandy funds to a senior center in Belleville, which wasn’t even hit hard by the storm. The project was jump-started in the spring, after the Star-Ledger reports Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble has breakfast with Christie and Essex County Executive Joseph Di’Vincenzo. And wouldn’t you know, Kimble, a democrat, went on to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign (he also adored the emperor’s fleece).

For the record, New Brunswick and Belleville ranked 188th and 254th on the list of New Jersey communities suffering hardships after Sandy, respectfully. Hoboken, which received a pathetic $142,080 out of $290 million it requested, ranked 16th.

So to recap, lack of oversight, money to politically connected development projects in areas barely scratched by Sandy, denials for political foes who stood in the way of the administration’s plans — all these could simple be coincidence, or more proof that the liberal media is out to get moderate Christie. But keep in mind Christie is a former U.S. Attorney, and should know what it means to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Unfortunately, from where I’m looking, the emperor is stuck naked on an abandoned island, talking about school hours and tax cuts while surrounded on all sides by a lake of impropriety. And there’s no fleece in sight.

Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe.

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