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Christie Facing Federal Probe Over Sandy Tourism Ad

Fed are looking into whether Christie used any Superstorm Sandy relief funds improperly, focusing on a tourism campaign that featured the governor.
Posted at 4:06 PM, Jan 13, 2014

So now the feds are looking into millions in Hurricane Sandy relief funds to see whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office used any of it improperly.

"The word is spreading."

"Because we're stronger than the storm."

"You bet we are."

It starts with this marketing campaign called "Stronger Than The Storm" aimed at promoting tourism after Hurricane Sandy. 

Here's the possible rub — Christie appears in some of those ads, and they aired as he was preparing to run for reelection. Critics have raised questions about how the state ended up picking the contractor who produced the ad. 

Critics like New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone — a Democrat who's never been much of a fan of the Republican governor. He's the one who pushed for the probe. (Via NJTV)

Pallone told CNN he's concerned some of the money for that campaign could have gone to Sandy victims. And that was possibly quite a bit of money. 

See — the campaign cost $4.7 million and featured Christie and his family. Another bid for the contract would have cost $2.5 million, though it wouldn't have featured the governor. (Via The Telegraph)

​​Then again, legal analysts on CNN debated the probe, and the network's Ashleigh Banfield and Lisa Bloom seemed to agree — no big deal. 

"It seems to me that Chris Christie has a good defense to this one, at least based on the facts that we know so far. He is presumed innocent. I'm sure his argument will be, look, bringing tourism into ultimately benefits everybody economically."

Even if that were so, most would agree Christie's got a timing problem at the very least. Consider the way this sounds:

"A new scandal rocks New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." (Via  WCPO)

"Chris Christie may face a new scandal." (Via KPTV)

"Details now on a new scandal." (Via WHDH)

The "new" scandal language is a reference to a not-yet-old story.

The one that broke last week about how Christie staffers arranged for the shut down of the country's busiest bridge in apparent political retaliation against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse the governor. (Via ABC)

That's the prevailing story line anyway. Christie denies any knowledge of what the press has so creatively dubbed "Bridgegate" — and has since fired his deputy chief of staff for — as he put it — lying to him. That issue is the subject of two probes. 

So this Sandy relief funds probe makes three higher-profile investigations for the governor many think could launch a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. (Via CBS)

A Christie spokesperson brushed off the news of the audit, calling federal agency reviews "routine and standard operating procedure" and saying the governor's office is "confident" the probe will clear him of any allegations of wrongdoing.