As controversy swirls around Port Authority Chairman David Samson, WNYC has learned that some of Gov. Chris Christie’s closest advisers urged him to oust Samson when the Bridgegate scandal broke.
On Jan. 8, the most explosive Bridgegate documents were released, and Christie immediately forced out two top staffers: Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and campaign manager Bill Stepien.
At least a few top Christie advisers thought Christie should also fire -- or at least force the resignation of -- Port Authority Chairman David Samson. So for two hours that day Christie met with the man he likens to a father. And he emerged trusting Samson. He would stand by him.
But the headlines kept coming, many of them fueled by Samson’s entwined political and business dealings. He is the common link from Bridgegate to an alleged shakedown scheme involving Hoboken's Sandy aid, and therefore has inadvertently helped keep the story going.
For example, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says Christie officials threatened to cut Sandy aid to her city if she didn’t approve a redevelopment deal represented by Samson’s law firm. The developer, the Rockefeller Group, this week cut ties with Samson.
The chairman has also come under scrutiny for failing to recuse himself on a vote to build a PATH station in Harrison -- even though he had business ties to investments that stood to benefit from the construction. Christie favored the project and was subsequently endorsed by the town's Democratic mayor.
These stories have built the storm around Christie over the last three weeks. Internally, it is known as "the crisis."
Christie is now asking the state Election Law Enforcement Commission to use campaign funds for an attorney to represent his re-election team. And he is spending $650 an hour in public funds for legal fees related to the governor’s office’s role in the scandal.
Sources close to Christie say Samson will now not be forced to resign. It’s too late.