Tag Archives: Bridgegate

6 Stories The Media Beat to Death in 2014 That Have Faded Into Obscurity

In a digital world the media often struggles to maintain the attention of its audience. Between horrific mass killings, viral outbreaks, violent authority figures, terrorists, and tantalizing political melodrama, the focus of our media shifts constantly.

The following six topics from 2014 were once a major focus of the fleeting attention of the media. Each of them at one point has received overwhelming media attention to become a fixture of American dialogue before fading into obscurity.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Questions remain as to how and where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came to its unfortunate end. Two-hundred and thirty nine people were never heard from again after contact was lost with the aircraft in March 2014. Efforts to find the aircraft have not been exhausted as the search continues, but the national media’s unrelenting attention did little to provide substantive insight into the unsolved tragedy.

Since the airliner crashed in March, 24-hour news networks have shifted focus from sensationalized speculation to passive, intermittent reporting.

Israel-Palestine Conflict
Israeli aerial bombings, Operation Protective Edge, of Palestinian-controlled Gaza during the summer of 2014 overshadowed most television news coverage at the end of July and early August.

Since the operations, tensions remain high in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas. Little, if any progress has been made, but the 24-hour news cycle has moved on to greener pastures.

Campaign Finance Laws
The 2014 midterm election was the most expensive midterm election in American history — totaling $3.67 billion. In part due to the Supreme Court’s April decision on McCutcheon v. FEC which increased the aggregate donation limits to candidates. Coverage of the decision’s possible effect of the decision on the political process remained peripheral throughout the course of the election season. Still, even after a report by the Center for Responsive Politics detailed the final cost, media attention remained elsewhere.

In January 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the subject of a firestorm of media attention after allegations that political retribution affected the lives of NJ and NY citizens due to bridge closures and traffic congestion on the Washington Bridge. What became known as ‘Bridgegate’ was believed to be an act of revenge against elected officials that did not officially support Christie’s campaign. A probe into the incident has been conducted for months with no end in sight, but national attention has shifted following the end of the midterm election season.

Government Surveillance
Thrust into the American zeitgeist following Snowden’s release of classified documents, government monitoring and mass intelligence gathering became a controversial focus of media attention and public opinion. But, media attention on the subject has remained reactive and sparse.

For instance, at the beginning of 2014, a report addressed dealings between Internet providers and intelligence agencies over use of customer data. Coverage of government surveillance programs following these negotiations have been limited. In November, Congress blocked a bill that would reform information gathering programs used by the NSA. Yet, during the same period, the media and the nation remained focused on the decision of a St. Louis grand jury.

9/11 Report

The potential release of 28 pages of the 9/11 report received limited focus following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The report would implicate the Saudi government in having a larger role in the attack than previously expressed but the report received less attention than more sensational events.

The overall purpose of the media is to direct the audience’s focus and keep it. In an effort to do so, the media must constantly develop stories and shift focuses to meet the demands of their audience. But a danger exists; with so many sources of information constantly vying for our attention, how do we know that information we receive is anything but entertainment?

Christie’s “Bridgegate” Investigation Cost NJ Taxpayers Over $6 Million

Documents released last week showed the law firm that represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) and investigated his involvement with the George Washington Bridge scandal has billed the state of New Jersey $6.5 million.

The state of New Jersey released invoices from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the firm hired by Christie, for $3.25 million for the months of January and February 2014, $2.49 million for the month of March, and $771,000 for the month of April. The state also released invoices charging $670,000 from law firms representing state employees who had been subpoenaed regarding the GWB scandal investigation. The invoices will be paid by taxpayers.

In March, Gibson Dunn released a 360-page report that cleared Christie of wrongdoing relating to the bridge lane closures. The report stated that the lane closures on the bridge were planned to target a local mayor, but evidence couldn’t be found that Christie was directly involved.

“We found that Gov. Christie had no knowledge beforehand of this George Washington Bridge realignment idea,” said lead investigator Randy Mastro, who released the report, in March.

Gibson Dunn had donated $10,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an organization chaired by Christie, nine days before the firm absolved Christie of wrongdoing in its report.

The report pointed to former Christie aide Bridget Kelly and senior official of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey David Wildstein as the culprits. Kelly had sent an email to Wildstein that stated “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” in reference to the lane closures, to which Wildstein had replied “got it“. Kelly was fired in January, and Wildstein retired in December 2013.

The report from Gibson Dunn invoked criticism from many, including John Wisniewski, who was the co-chair of a legislative committee also investigating the lane closures. Wisniewski pointed out that three people were never interviewed by the firm, including Kelly, Wildstein, and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien. The three had all declined interviews.

“If we don’t hear from the person who put the lane closures into motion, Bridget Kelly, who we know sent the email ‘Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee’ … if we don’t know why she sent that email, if we don’t know who gave her the authority to send that email, if we don’t know what she thought she may be accomplishing by sending that email, then we can’t have a complete picture of what happened here,” said Wisniewski.

Federal investigations of the GWB scandal, including one conducted by a special state legislative committee and two by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, are still ongoing. Paul Fishman, New Jersey’s US Attorney, said last month that he’s unsure of how long it will take to complete the investigations. “Thorough, complete investigations take time. They have to be done right. They have to be done thoroughly and that’s all I’ll say about that,” he said.

Feds To Investigate Chris Christie For Spending Hurricane Relief Funds On Campaign Ad

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie introduces U.S. President Barack Obama to speak on the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore following Hurricane Sandy, from Asbury Park in New Jersey

So far, 2014 has been tough for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Last week he was making headlines for the “Bridgegate Scandal” – and now, he is being audited by the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for allegedly using $2 million in storm Sandy relief funds to pay for a re-election campaign ad.

The investigation into Christie surrounds a television commercial featuring Christie and his family. The successful ad was called “Stronger than the Storm” and aired last spring — we reported on the commercial back in August when it was revealed that Christie used Sandy relief money to fund it.

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th District) wrote a letter in August that said, “It is inappropriate for taxpayer-funded dollars that are critical to our state’s recovery from this natural disaster to fund commercials that could potentially benefit a political campaign.”

The letter continued, “While promoting tourism at the Jersey Shore in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is certainly a worthy endeavor, recent reports have led me to believe that the state has irresponsibly misappropriated funding allocated by Congress from the Sandy aid package and taken advantage of this waiver for political purposes.”

In response to his letter, Pallone was recently notified that HUD found “enough evidence to justify a full-scale audit of the state’s usage of the federal funds.”

In a statement, Pallone said, “Had Governor Christie chosen the less expensive firm, $2.2 million in federal disaster aid could have potentially been directed elsewhere, for example, to provide 44 Sandy-impacted homeowners $50,000 grants to raise their homes.”

Christie is likely to run for president in 2016. The new slew of scandals could potentially put a wrench in these plans. Many Christie supporters complain that the mainstream media have been giving these Christie “scandals” far more attention than the Obama scandals earlier this year.

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Bridgegate scandal: Gov. Chris Christie says, “I’m not a bully”

After previously denying involvement, New Jersey governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has admitted that his staff caused a politically-motivated traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge.

“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” said Christie at a news conference Thursday.

Christie said he had fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, one of the aides apparently responsible for the closure, which delayed school buses and emergency vehicles.

The closure was intended by Christie’s staff to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for allegedly not supporting Christie’s re-election campaign. The George Washington Bridge is one of the most heavily traveled route connecting New Jersey to New York. According to the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, over 300,000 people travel the bridge each day.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the conduct that they exhibited is completely unacceptable and showed a lack of respect for the appropriate role of government and for the people that were trusted to serve,” said Christie.

Christie went to Fort Lee on Thursday afternoon to apologize personally to Mayor Mark Sokolich and the community. Lee accepted his apology.

E-mails and texts released on Wednesday showed  Christie’s officials plotting the incident: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote in an e-mail to David Wildstein, one of the Port Authority appointees.

Christie continued: “I feel humiliated by this. I’m a person who cares deeply about doing my job well. I work extraordinarily hard at it. That’s what I should do. I’ve taken an oath to that effect. But I am humiliated by the fact that I did not know this and that I was deceived. And that’s an awful way to feel.”

Reports, which cannot be confirmed, allege that a patient inside the back of an ambulance caught in the gridlock passed away. Christie responded to that report during his news conference: “It’s awful. Now, I’ve also seen conflicting reports about what the cause of death was and whatever, but it doesn’t matter. It’s awful to hear.”

As far as this scandal hurting his presidential aspirations, Christie said he’s not focusing on that. “My focus is on the people of New Jersey and the job that they gave me,” he added.

The media has focused on the culture Gov. Christie has allowed to exist in his administration. A culture where this behavior is acceptable. New Jersey’s largest paper doubts that Christie didn’t know what was going on in his own administration.

New Jersey Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski told DailyMail that Christie is covering up the facts. “Christie is either ‘a governor who can’t manage his staff or one who isn’t telling the truth,” said Wisniewski. 

Wisniewski said that David Wildstein, who pleaded the Fifth during a ‘Bridgegate’ hearing today represents ‘just the tip of the cover-up.’