Super PAC: Hoboken "Stonewalling" in Christie Case

Super PAC: Hoboken "Stonewalling" in Christie Case
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Soon after the Bridgegate scandal embroiling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie erupted last month, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer went public with her claim that the Christie administration threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy recovery funds for her city unless she supported a favored real estate project.

Zimmer’s bombshell accusation sparked a federal inquiry and opened a second front in the Garden State drama, which began as a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge and has since unfolded into three separate investigations that continue to threaten the political future of the Republican leader once widely considered the GOP’s presidential frontrunner for 2016.

But as enthusiastic as Democrats have been in trumpeting Zimmer’s charges and providing the small-city mayor with a national platform, Christie’s defenders have been just as eager to drill holes in her story and depict the ongoing investigations as motivated primarily by partisanship.

Now, a Republican opposition research super PAC is lambasting the City of Hoboken for “stonewalling” in response to the PAC’s request for public records of phone and email communications between the mayor’s office and national Democratic groups.

According to emails he provided to RealClearPolitics, Tim Miller of America Rising PAC sent a letter to the Hoboken clerk’s office last week to request all correspondence from Jan. 7 to Jan. 31 exchanged between the mayor and her staff and groups ranging from the Democratic National Committee to Priorities USA (as well as New Jersey state legislators).

Miller also requested copies of physical and electronic communication between Zimmer’s office related to the scheduling of Zimmer’s interview with MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, who broke the news of her allegations on his show.

The request was made under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

In denying almost the entirety of Miller’s request, OPRA Records Clerk Michael Mastropasqua cited the Republican operative’s query as being “overly broad, vague, unclear, and a request for research.” Mastropasqua added that the request would also “substantially disrupt agency operations” if carried out.

The only document that the city agreed to release was an email exchange between Kornacki and Hoboken Communications Manager Juan Melli, which was related to scheduling logistics.

Miller characterized the city’s refusal to release the pertinent records as part of a Democratic obstruction effort.

"National Democrats and liberal pundits have been running a coordinated political smear campaign against Governor Christie that has included a number of highly dubious claims with no evidence to support them,” he said in a statement to RCP. “This was particularly apparent with regard to the Mayor of Hoboken, whose false attacks have completely unraveled under scrutiny. Now, she is stonewalling attempts to identify who in the Democratic Party tried to leverage her baseless charges for political gain, rather than comply with the New Jersey Open Public Records Act."

Reached by phone on Wednesday, a Hoboken official said that Mastropasqua was not in the office and that no one was available who could elaborate on why the PAC’s request was denied.

America Rising isn’t the only pro-Christie group that has sought records from Zimmer’s office. On Sunday, The Record -- the Bergen County newspaper that broke the news that members of Christie administration’s had orchestrated the infamous lane closures in Fort Lee last fall -- reported that Christie’s legal team has also requested documents and a private interview with the Hoboken mayor.

Zimmer denied that request, according to the report. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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