One thing's certain in the latest allegation against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: either Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer is blatantly lying through her partisan teeth or The Sopranos are alive and well in Trenton.
According to Zimmer, and coming on the heels of the BridgeGate access-lane revenge-closings scandal, she was strong-armed and threatened by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno last year in a shakedown attempt for support of a real estate development deal that was a pet project of Christie's and the Rockefeller Group, a company with whom he has close ties.
Zimmer said the two met in a Hoboken parking lot in May, where the conversation went a little something like this:
Guadagno: Ayyyyyy.....you wanna get some of that cool fed cash for your poor little Hurricane Sandy victims, do ya? Whattya gonna do for us?
Zimmer: What do you mean?
Guadagno: We got a project ova here...a very important deal....means a lot to the Big Guy. Ya know what I mean?
Zimmer: No, I really don't.
Guadagno: Ok, lemme make it simple for ya, Cheech. You getchya money when you support the deal. Ya don't get shit if you make the Boss angry, kapish? And by the way, this conversation never happened.
Speaking at an event in Union Beach Monday where she addressed reporters but refused to take questions, a stoic, seemingly lawyered-up Guadagno unequivocally denied Zimmer's charges:
"Mayor Zimmer's version of our conversation in may of 2013 is not only false but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined. Any suggestion, any suggestion, that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false."
Citing the devastation caused by the storm and saying she was a Sandy victim herself, an incredulous, animated Guadagno called Zimmer's allegations "particularly offensive to me" and denied them as "wholly and completely false."
Yet as each day passes and another new plot twist surfaces, it becomes more and more implausible that Christie, Guadagno and the administration are being truthful. As the saying goes, where there's smoke there's fire. Christie's reputation, like that of his corruption-plagued state, precedes him. He's publicly ridiculed those who've disagreed with him as idiots, jerks and stupid. This derisive behavior points to a culture of intimidation and abuse created and maintained by the governor himself. With that evidence as a backdrop, is it really hard then to imagine Guadagno's "You better pony up, or else" threat?
Another big question is, why would Zimmer lie? What does she have to gain by totally fabricating a story and thus tossing herself squarely into the center of one of the most complicated, far-reaching and consequential political scandals in recent memory?
Zimmer met Sunday with the United States Attorney's office to provide details and documents to substantiate her story. She's also offered to take a lie-detector test and testify under oath. Guadagno herself admits she met in that parking lot last May with Zimmer and that they did discuss Sandy relief money. She just disagrees with Zimmer's "version" of that encounter. As the popular SNL skit goes, "Really? Really?"
Zimmer's timing may be suspect to some on the right, but her situation is akin to that of countless crime victims who are bullied into submission and silence, fearful of retribution. But all it takes is someone else to come forward first and the floodgates open. For both Zimmer and Christie, BridgeGate is merely the House of Cards. It's naive to think that Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, BridgeGate's intended victim, and Zimmer are the only local pols touched by the Christie Mob. There's likely other mayors, assemblymen, senators and/or bureaucrats preparing to come forward with their own allegations as well.
Furthermore, we haven't even witnessed the full bore of the state and Federal investigations yet and what the subpoenas of former top Christie aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien and the Port Authority's David Wildstein will reveal. If given immunity, these former loyalists could end up singing like canaries, costing the Big Guy the White House and perhaps even the Governor's mansion.
And not for nuthin', it doesn't help Christie's "I am not a bully" narrative to have surrogates like Rudy Giuliani, who's called BridgeGate a "political prank," and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who on CNN Monday referred to Zimmer as "a lady Mayor," defending him.