The scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge has hurt New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions, but just when Christie seemed to be moving past it, another bridge scandal put him back in the news Tuesday for all the wrong reasons.
The New York Times, citing unnamed sources briefed on the matter, reports that authorities already looking into the Christie administration’s handling of what’s become known as Bridgegate are now also probing whether the governor’s office pushed for the illegal use of funds to renovate a different bridge. While it’s easy to label this as another Bridgegate, the questions surrounding each bridge differ dramatically.
For those trying to sort out the two scandals and what they mean, TIME offers the following guide to Bridgegate, Part Two.
What are officials investigating this time?
Officials from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating possible violations of securities law. According to the Times report, Christie’s office repeatedly insisted that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey provide funds to repair an ailing state bridge despite repeated legal counsel against the move. The Pulaski Skyway, located solely in the state of New Jersey, does not fall under the purview of the Port Authority.
Why does this issue fall under securities law?
The funds in question originated from municipal bonds collected for improvements to the Lincoln Tunnel, the Times reports. If the government collected money for that purpose and spent it on something else, officials could face prosecution for misleading bondholders. The involvement of both state and federal officials suggests that investigators are examining the potential violation of both state and local securities law. The SEC and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office wouldn’t comment. In an email, a spokesman for Christie said proper legal procedures were followed and noted that Christie has publicly discussed using Port Authority funding for the bridge renovation in the past.
What is the Pulaski Skyway?
The Pulaski Skyway is a New Jersey bridge that connects Newark and Jersey City—a stretch frequented by commuters, including many headed to New York City. It has grown increasingly dilapidated in recent years. The state had to install a net to catch falling debris from the bridge. In April, it closed for a two-year renovation funded in part by the Port Authority money in question.
What are the political implications of the latest scandal?
That remains to be seen. The first bridge controversy centers on allegations that Christie allies closed lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a local mayor who wouldn’t endorse his reelection. The story badly damaged Christie’s reputation as a no-nonsense politician who puts governing ahead of politics. But in some ways, the latest scandal appears to suggest the opposite intent on Christie’s part. The Pulaski Skyway is a dilapidated overpass in desperate need of renovation. Repairing it undoubtedly serves the state’s interests, while closing lanes on a busy bridge that connects New Jersey and New York did not.
Still, despite the seemingly laudable goal of fixing a crumbling bridge, no politician wants another controversy, and that remains true here. Political observers still consider Christie a 2016 presidential contender, even though the Bridgegate controversy has undoubtedly stripped him of his early status as the GOP front-runner.
And what actually happened with the George Washington Bridge?
After the closing of lanes leading from Fort Lee, N.J., to the George Washington Bridge in caused enormous traffic jams in September 2013, allegations emerged that Christie staffers had planned the disruption to wreck havoc in in Fort Lee because the town’s mayor didn’t support Christie’s reelection campaign.
Aides have resigned in the face of question and Christie has sent others packing, but Christie has always maintained he knew nothing about the lane closures or what motivated them until after the fact. An internal investigation commissioned by Christie’s office cleared him of any wrongdoing. Still, New Jersey residents remain skeptical. A poll conducted after the report’s release suggested that only 32% of residents thought Christie has been entirely honest about the issue. And 47% said they thought Christie was directly involved.
The investigations into both bridges remain ongoing.