Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Governor Cuomo Used Christie's Bridgegate Cronies For Port Authority Toll Hike Games

Earlier I posted a Star-Ledger article from the March that revealed the games Governors Christie and Cuomo played with Port Authority bridge and tunnel increases as well as a PATH fare hike.

The gist was this:

Both governors wanted to raise the tolls and PATH fare but wanted political cover to do it.

So they had their Port Authority appointees play games with the fare and toll increases, releasing outrageous hikes in order to let the governors swoop in and "demand" smaller increases, thus looking like "heroes."

In addition, they made sure public hearings over the increases took place at times when the general public couldn't attend but members of construction unions that would benefit from work paid for by the toll increases could, thus Christie and Cuomo could say that some in the public were supporting the fare and toll increases.

In the end, Christie and Cuomo already knew what the increases were going to be, they just wanted some political theater to give them political cover.

It was, in the words of one former PA official, "all bullshit."

And guess who helped Christie and Cuomo play their bullshit games?

Some of the same people who played games with the George Washington Bridge:


And, the sources said, the fictional plan was led by the same people who two years later would arrange the September 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closures, which have engulfed the Christie administration in scandal.

The two were Bill Baroni, the former Republican state senator and GOP campaign lawyer named by Christie to the agency’s deputy executive director post in early 2010, and David Wildstein, the former political blogger and Republican mayor of Livingston, where he went to high school with Christie.
Baroni’s lawyer, Michael Himmel, said his client had “no comment” on the assertions.

Wildstein’s lawyer, Alan Zegas, called the officials' version of the toll hike “inaccurate.”

He did not specify how. He also suggested there was a conspiracy to tar his client. “It is a snippet, and a not fully accurate one, of reality,” Zegas said.

The Christie administration did not return phone calls or emails. Ranking officials at the authority also did not comment. Cuomo’s office likewise did not respond to calls or emails.

While none of those officials would comment, a committee chaired by Assemblyman John Wisniewski has subpoenaed all documents and correspondence between the Port Authority and the Christie administration regarding the toll hike.

Wisniewski was one of the original skeptics of the hike when it was announced, and he still isn’t buying it.

“My suspicion is — I think it’s pretty well understood as fact — that the original announcement of whatever the toll increase was was all theater, so that would allow the governor to say, ‘No, no, it has to be lower,’ ” Wisniewski said in an interview following the most recent round of subpoenas.
For him and others, the toll hike scenario was too pat. How, the skeptics asked, could Christie not have known about the initial proposal when he had appointed two of his closest political allies to Port Authority leadership, Chairman David Samson and Baroni?

One source said complete responses to the latest subpoenas from the legislative committee would reveal that the bridge closures and the toll hike were engineered out of much the same playbook.
A minimum of agency officials were made aware of what was happening with the toll hike and sworn to secrecy under the implied threat of losing their jobs, the six sources said. And both actions included some of the same players.

“He’ll find emails,” the official said of Wisniewski, who co-chairs the joint committee with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). “And he’ll find the emails between Baroni, Wildstein and the governor’s office. And he’ll also find emails between Baroni and Cuomo’s office.”

So we now have a direct connection between Cuomo's office and the actors who carried off Christie's Bridgegate scheme using the same "playbook" to carry out the PA toll hikes and PATH fare increase.

Cuomo's PA man, Patrick Foye, has been subpoenaed by the US attorney in New Jersey investigating the Bridgegate matter.

I have posted before about Cuomo has played fast and loose with his own Bridgegate timeline (and if you haven't read the terrific Zack Fink Salon piece on that part of the story, please do so.)

I have surmised that if prosecutors dig deep enough, they will find a connection between Cuomo and Bridgegate.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino's campaign has insinuated that Christie is helping Cuomo in his re-election bid despite being the head of the National Governors Association in the opposing party, perhaps in return for Cuomo's help in the Bridgegate matter.

That we now know there is a direct connection between Cuomo's office and Christie cronies in the Bridgegate scheme means there needs to be a thorough investigation of what Cuomo's role in these PA games has been.

I am hoping Paul Fishman, the US attorney in NJ, is doing some of that investigating because I am doubtful that Dems in the NJ Assembly and Senate are going to do it no matter what Wisniewski or Weinberg say.

And if not Fishman in NJ, then perhaps Preet Bharara in New York as part of the larger Moreland mess - he is allegedly looking into Cuomo's interference in the Moreland Commissions subpoenas of his own donors.

It's pretty clear Cuomo's got some funkiness going on at the Port Authority.

It's time to get to the bottom of that rank smell.


  1. Governor's Christie and Cuomo are next Rod Blagojoviches.
    Jailtime for both bonzos! Give them the same six foot by eight foot cell, bunk beds with Christie on top bunk, with a non private toilet and a small sink. No TV. Let us all make an effort to be on hand to watch their inevitable perp walks.

    1. Alas, not sure about the inevitability. But would sure like to see both perp walked.