The New Jersey State Police have relieved Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., of at least one of his woes in the George Washington Bridge scandal by giving a statement that confirmed his helicopter did not fly over the lanes jammed with traffic last September.
Lawmakers in the New Jersey State Assembly who sit on the committee investigating Christie had expanded their probe into the scandal to determine if he took a helicopter ride during the middle of the scandal. But the state police released a statement Wednesday saying, “None of the three flights transporting the governor during that week flew over, or close, to either the George Washington Bridge or Fort Lee, including the flight on 9/11,” according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Though the scandal has followed Christie around the country while he fundraises for the Republican Governors Association (RGA), he still seems to be getting a fair amount of support from prominent Republicans. Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., said Wednesday that Christie should not step down from the head of the organization because he has no doubt to believe that Christie lied when he said he knew nothing of his aides’ efforts to shut down the bridge lanes.
“He told me the same thing in private that he did to the press in New Jersey, and I have every reason to believe that the information he said is consistent with the truth, and so I still support him in his role as governor and his role in the RGA,” Walker said at an economic conference in Madison, Wis., according to Politico.
New Jersey Republicans have even sought an advantage out of Democrats’ efforts to keep the scandal in the news, alleging that both the party and the media are guilty of a “partisan witch hunt.”
“Over the past few weeks, the liberal media and Trenton Democrats have relentlessly attacked the Governor despite his strong, decisive leadership. It's time to stand up to MSNBC, the liberal media and their attacks,” says a fundraising email sent by the Republican State Committee, which encourages recipients to commit to donating $25 a month to show their support.
The governor is balancing the scandal and his RGA duties with his normal work as governor, which still includes cleanup and rebuilding in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
At a news conference Wednesday he promised to help residents get their lives back to normal and encouraged people to apply for the Working Families Living Expenses Voucher Program which was launched in October to help people pay rent or mortgages while their homes or being repaired. A federally financed pool of money has $57 million available, but just $11 million has been used so far.
The state’s Department of Community Affairs also announced it would reopen the appeals process for recovery aid after revelations that approximately 80 percent of people who appealed rulings that they were ineligible for aid were later found to be eligible.
Some residents are unhappy that Christie used several million dollars in recovery funds for a “Stronger than the Storm” advertising campaign that featured the governor encouraging a revival of beach tourism in the state. The ads have also come under fire from lawmakers in Washington.
At a session for state officials to describe how they will use the next $1.4 billion in federal recovery aid, some speakers said that even a planned $5 million sum for advertising was too much.
"It is wasteful and it is not needed,” said Deb Ellis of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness. “ Five million may not sound like a lot compared to $1.4 billion, but $5 million can buy a lot of rental vouchers."