Emboldened by the findings of a report by the Select Committee on Investigation (SCI), which fail to take down Gov. Chris Christie, GOP committee members Senator Kevin O’Toole, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, Assemblywomen Handlin and Holly Schepisi this morning issued a scathing 119-page Bridgegate statement.
In their report, Republicans claim Democrats should never have allowed one of the SCI’s co-chairs, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), to have chaired the committee, citing what they say was a “possible conflict of interest” for the 19th District assemblyman.
The report comes on the same day that the committee as a whole publicly absorbs the release of attorney Reid Schar’s George Washington Bridge report.
The GOP’s counter report can be found here.
In it, O’Toole – a close ally of Gov. Chris Christie – and his colleagues especially skewer Wisniewski.
“An opportunistic and power-hungry politician also used those reprehensible lane reassignments as cover, while leading a legislative committee to try to execute a two-pronged political mission: take down Governor Chris Christie, the biggest political threat to state and national Democrats, and in so doing, become the next Democrat gubernatorial candidate,” the report charges.
The GOP report seizes on the conclusion of the report prepared by Schar, the attorney who prepared the report officially due out today. Schar acknowledges that there is no evidence that Christie abused power in connection with the George Washington Bridge scandal, which resulted in the resignation of the governor’s deputy chief of staff, former campaign manager and others, and sparked a federal investigation.
Throughout their report, Republican committee members rammed former Democratic State Party Chairman Wisniewski, claiming to expose “the wasteful ways that [he] and his Democrat allies politicized the taxpayer-funded New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation. Assemblyman Wisniewski and some of his Select Committee colleagues repeatedly misled the public; manipulated media coverage via false leads, seemingly unlawful leaks and baseless claims; charged taxpayers millions of dollars to promote political fiction; and accomplished nothing meaningful for the public good. Their actions have raised many unanswered potential legal and ethical concerns surrounding apparent conflicts of interest and the use of public resources for political purposes.”
The Republicans claim that Wisniewski “also made most of the decisions on subpoenas and controlled meeting agendas, rarely yielded to Co-Chair Weinberg and never considered the concerns, suggestions or solutions of Republican members.”
Arguably the fiercest attack leveled at the co-chair of the committee goes to Wisniewski’s legal work.
“Co-Chair Wisniewski should have been banned from the Select Committee because of his possible conflict of interest as a private attorney embroiled in a client’s high-stakes land deal with the Port Authority,” the report asserts. “A few years ago, the co-chairman called upon then-Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, his former New Jersey legislative colleague, to provide information for a client’s potential land deal, instead of going the seemingly more appropriate route of contacting the agency’s legal department. After Port Authority officials responded to the co-chair that they were interested in buying that property near the agency-controlled Goethels Bridge, Co-Chair Wisniewski helped his client, Elizabeth Marine Terminal, acquire that land.”