Matt Katz, New Jersey Public Radio
Here's a primer on the major players involved in the George Washington Bridge traffic-jam controversy.
DAVID WILDSTEIN: The first casualty of the controversy, Wildstein is described by his many political enemies as a "political jihadist" and the "prince of darkness." Friends, though, call him loyal, intelligent and a committed public servant. Both camps describe him as complicated.
A Livingston High classmate of Gov. Chris Christie's (see his yearbook photo, left) and later a 20-something mayor of their town, Wildstein is a political junkie: He collects New Jersey legislative manuals dating to the 19th century, and he ran the popular political gossip sheet, PoliticsNJ.com (later PolitickerNJ.com) under the cloak of anonymity.
A political operative once hired a private investigator to out him, but his identity was only revealed when Christie created a position for him at the Port Authority, where he developed a reputation for cracking skulls on the governor's behalf. Wildstein resigned after it was learned that he ordered the traffic study that led to lane closures and a series of massive, controversial traffic jams.
PATRICK FOYE: The executive director at the Port Authority, Foye is an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who blew the controversy wide open when he declared under oath at a legislative hearing that he was aware of no traffic study. That raised questions about why lanes were closed, who ordered them closed, and whether Christie knew anything about it. Earlier this year, Wildstein bought PatFoye.com, apparently without Foye's knowledge.
BILL BARONI: Known as a well-liked, pro-gay marriage, union-friendly Republican state senator, Baroni was tapped as Christie's top staffer at the Port Authority. He made a name for himself when he was summoned to Congress to explain toll hikes at the Hudson River crossings, only to turn the hearing around on the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Christie nemesis who was leading the campaign against the hikes. Baroni ticked-off the free trips that the millionaire senator had taken across the river crossings. He later tried the same aggressive charm when summoned to a hearing about the lane closures, repeatedly pivoting to whether it was a "fair" for the town of Fort Lee to have its own lanes to the bridge. Two of Fort Lee's three lanes were closed as part of the "traffic study" without Port Authority officials, local police or the media knowing. Baroni resigned last week.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: The governor does not have his fingerprints on the lane closures. His inner circle hasn't even been implicated. But now that two men in the outer-rung of Team Christie — Baroni and Wildstein, long-time Christie associates and poobahs in New Jersey politics — have fallen, Democrats smell blood. (Christie and Wildstein went to high school together; Christie yearbook photo to the left). Democrats are awaiting subpoenaed correspondence indicating that Christie's front office or campaign team either: a) Ordered the lane closures as retribution against the Fort Lee mayor, who didn't endorse Christie, or b) Tried to suppress information from getting out after the traffic jam. This may be the stickiest controversy Christie has faced over his entire four years in office.
MARK SOKOLICH: The silent one. Sokolich, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, didn't endorse Christie's re-election. Was that why his town was punished with massive traffic jams on the first week of school (which also fell on Yom Kippur and the Sept. 11 anniversary)? At the time, Sokolich alleged in a letter that there were "punitive overtones" to the traffic study and ensuing traffic jams, with anonymous sources telling reporters he was leaned on to endorse the governor. Sokolich quickly walked back his comments, and now he refuses to say what he thinks. But he may be called to testify under oath at a legislative hearing. PLUS: Christie had said he didn't recall ever even meeting Sokolich, but a picture of the men has since surfaced. See the photo at the top of the story.
ROBERT DURANDO: The general manager of the George Washington Bridge — a 30-year employee of the Port Authority — delivered some of the most damning testimony last week. He described the lane closures as bizarre and unprecedented, and said Wildstein inexplicably ordered him not to warn officials in Fort Lee, the very town turned into a parking lot by the traffic study. And when asked if a "culture of fear" exists at the Port Authority, he paused for 10 seconds without answering.
LORETTA WEINBERG: The first elected Democrat to sound the alarm about the traffic jams, Sen. Weinberg represents Fort Lee. And as the senate majority leader, she enjoys clout — especially as other more Christie-friendly Democrats, like Senate President Stephen Sweeney, avoid criticizing the governor. The 78-year-old widow is making the national TV rounds, demanding a congressional investigation and settling an old score: Christie once implored reporters to "take the bat out" on her for collecting a pension and legislative salary at the same time.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI: The former chairman of the state Democratic party, Assemblyman Wisniewski once toyed with the idea of running against Christie. But as a legislator in forgotten Central Jersey, he lacks muscle from the North and South Jersey political bosses. Now, as the chairman and lead interrogator on the committee investigating the Port Authority, Wisniewski may have found a platform for a future statewide bid. He is being praised by Democrats and (quietly) by Republicans for the measured way he is trying to hone in on Christie, the most popular Republican in the country.
DEBORAH GRAMICCIONI: The tornado comes with a smile. Gramiccioni, a long-time Christie subordinate, was the head of Christie's Authorities Unit, in charge of overseeing shadowy agencies like the Port Authority, earning a reputation for being tough but gracious. Gramiccioni got her "Tornado" nickname back at the U.S. Attorney's Office, where she worked for Christie as a corruption-buster. She has now been tapped to replace Baroni as deputy executive director of the Port Authority so she can try to stop the bleeding for her boss. Gramiccioni once gave Christie cover after he allegedly fell asleep at a Bruce Springsteen show, which just may have helped her land the new gig.