Here’s an ironic example, uncovered by Christie Watch, of how tangled is the web involving Chris Christie, the Port Authority, its chairman David Samson, and Wolff & Samson: A key former member of Governor Chris Christie’s cabinet, who now works for the powerhouse and well-connected law firm Wolff & Samson, is overseeing a contract handed out to Wolff & Samson in August 2013 to audit the distribution of Sandy aid. Lori Grifa, who once headed Christie’s Department of Community Affairs, is the Wolff & Samson attorney in question, and it turns out that she also lobbied for the approval of the $1 billion development project in Hoboken that is at the center of charges that the administration threatened to withhold Sandy aid to Hoboken unless Mayor Dawn Zimmer approved the project.
The Bridgegate scandal that has plagued Chris Christie has already cost the New Jersey governor several key aides, including Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, the man who orchestrated Christie’s 2013 reelection and who was supposed to have been his inside man at the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Now, there’s a distinct possibility that he’ll lost another key ally: Grifa’s boss, David Samson, the chairman of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, who’s been the governor’s political mentor and who ran his transition team when he was first elected governor in 2009.
As we shall see, Samson is beset by a growing wave of conflict-of-interest scandals involving Christie, the Port Authority and Samson’s law firm. For a while now there’ve been rumors that Samson might be on the way out, and last week the Newark Star-Ledger called on Samson to quit.
The case against Samson is substantial. First, Samson has been a key focus of the legislative committee investigating Bridgegate, which has subpoenaed him after e-mails released in mid-January revealed he knew about the traffic tie-up and was “helping us retaliate,” according to an email by David Wildstein, who orchestrated the lane closures. In another released e-mail Samson accused the PA’s executive director Patrick Foye of “stirring up trouble” by talking about the lane closures.
Second, his law firm, Wolff & Samson, which he co-founded, is entangled in vast array of conflicts of interest, some of which have been uncovered since Bridgegate. His firm is a player in the Hoboken story, now being investigated by the US attorney in New Jersey, where the mayor says that the Christie administration threatened to withhold recovery aid to her city unless she went along with a $1 billion development project by the Rockefeller Group, which was then represented by Wolff & Samson. It appears, also, that Wolff & Samson used its influence, perhaps improperly, to win approval for a Port Authority-funded PATH train station renovation that sits cheek-by-jowl with another Wolff & Samson-connected real estate development project. There are other conflicts, too numerous to mention in detail, including one recently that just broke over the weekend: An article in the Star-Ledger revealed how Railroad Construction Company, whose owner is represented by Wolff & Samson, received close to $16 million in PA contracts.