WNYC Wins Peabody for 'Chris Christie, White House Ambitions, and the Abuse of Power'

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From left, Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Governor Chris Christie, and David Wildstein.

Chris Christie, White House Ambitions and the Abuse of Power is a series of reports on the exercise of power by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration. The stories (linked below) investigate his administration’s use of the busiest bridge in the world to take political revenge on a small-town mayor, the operation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the political and financial benefit of his administration and the use of federal Sandy aid to strong arm the mayor of Hoboken.

These reports focused national attention on a leading Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race, established the narrative not just for national and local coverage, but for state and federal investigations of the administration and most significantly, uncovered important information about the politicization of public entities by an elected official whose appeal to voters is based on being above politics.

WNYC's submission for review by the Peabody included the newsroom's most significant work on this story. Over the course of a year, WNYC’s news team  - committed to investigative coverage of the politics and governments of both New York and New Jersey, as well as the region’s transportation systems and authorities - consistently broke investigative news on this story. This series of reports was the work of a team of WNYC and New Jersey Public Radio reporters, producers and engineers, including Andrea Bernstein and Matt Katz. The effort was led by Nancy Solomon, managing editor of New Jersey Public Radio, and overseen by Jim Schachter, WNYC’s Vice President for News.  

Reporting by WNYC helped lead to the forced resignation of Gov. Christie’s top man at the Port Authority, a bi-state agency that controls $8 billion in annual revenue raised largely from tolls and fares paid by commuters of this region. The Port Authority’s budget is larger than many state budgets and it is responsible for moving millions of people and goods through the region's airports, roadways, trains, and ports.

WNYC’s in-depth reports on the Port Authority prompted criminal investigations by the Manhattan District Attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission into the misuse of Port Authority funds. It led the United States Attorney for New Jersey to widen its investigation into conflicts of interest by David Samson, the Port Authority Chair, a close Christie ally. And the reporting spurred the creation of a bi-state panel to reform the Port Authority.

On Dec. 2, 2013, a WNYC reporter was the first to ask the governor if he was involved in the bridge lane closures, and our coverage of his sarcastic reply – “I was in overalls and a hat, but I was actually the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious” – catapulted the story into the national spotlight.

In the following months, WNYC's coverage broke new ground. More importantly, it provided context, explanation and nuance about how the actions of the Christie Administration were contrary to its claims of bringing transparency, good government and bi-partisanship to Trenton. 

1/8/2014: Emails Tie Top Christie Aide to GW Bridge Scandal

1/13/2014: Who Knew What, When?

1/16/2014: How Christie’s Men Turned the Port Authority into a Political Piggy Bank

1/23/2014: Under Christie, Business Booms for Port Authority’s Chief

2/3/2014: Fuzzy Math: How Christie Divvied Up Sandy Mitigation Money

2/11/2014: The Power Broker: How Christie’s Port Point Man Plays All Sides of Transit Deals

3/5/2014: Does Chris Christie Owe Hoboken $700,000?

3/27/2014: A Jilted Lover, a ‘Crazy’ Man and Diane Sawyer: What Christie Crisis Management Looks Like

3/28/2014: Fifth Christie Ally Resigns

4/3/2014: How Christie’s Office Used Government Employees to Win Endorsements

4/14/2014: Did Christie Aides Cover Up Bridgegate?

6/9/2014: Christie Aide: I Didn’t Ask, I Didn’t Take Notes, I Don’t Recall

6/24/2014: Exclusive: Logs Show Dozens of Calls Between Former Port Chief & Top Christie Aides

8/1/2014: The Mystery of Christie’s Deleted Bridgegate Text

12/8/2014: Christie, Aide Texted as Bridgegate Cover Story Unraveled