What we have learned from the Bridgegate trial so far:
- The Port Authority, established in 1921 to promote transportation and trade in New York harbor, has become an $8 billion a year patronage mill for the governors of New York and New Jersey. A good example, the PA’s “bank funds” were used to help Essex County Democrat Joseph DiVincenzo win re-election with money for the parks he promotes.
2. With the right connections, you need absolutely no knowledge of transportation and trade to get a $150,000-a-year job with the Port Authority. You can even openly lie on your job application and say you have a degree you don’t. All you need do is be committed to your governor and be literally willing to lie, cheat, and steal for him. Just ask David Wildstein.
3. There never was a traffic study of the Fort Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
4. Legislative hearings—like those conducted by the New Jersey legislature into the non-existent traffic study (see above) —are theatrical shows designed to provide material for curious (but not too curious) media outlets that won’t go beyond the nonsense to find out what really happened. Legislative hearings should never be treated as efforts to find the truth.
5. Don’t trust press releases coming out from public officials unless accompanied by a sworn certification and results of three independently-administered polygraph tests. Pat Foye, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pick for PA executive director, allowed a press release to go out carrying the lie of the traffic study even when he knew such a study did not exist. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich lied, too. Wildstein is not alone.
6. Christie was driven by a blind ambition to become president—probably since he ran for student council president at Livingston High—but certainly since he was first elected governor, with the help of third party candidate Chris Daggett, in 2009. Bridgegate was the inevitable result.
7. Philip Kwon, one of Christie’s picks for the state Supreme Court—got that, the state supreme court, yikes!—helped Bill Baroni prep for those hearings. Fortunately, he didn’t get to the court but he got the consolation prize, a deputy counsel’s job at, what else?, the Port Authority.
8. Not all leaders of public employee unions can be trusted when they deal with powerful politicians. Consider what the leaders of the Port Authority PBA unions—which endorsed Christie for re-election—were willing to do to help advance the cover story of the Fort Lee traffic study.
And what we don’t know yet—will the jury find defendants Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly guilty? Not a lot has been introduced so far to convict Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff to Christie. Baroni, the Port Authority’s deputy executive director, will have to explain how he went to extraordinary lengths to protect citizens from impending Lincoln Tunnel traffic jams—even going door-to-door with the mayor of Weehawken explaining to residents what might happen—but didn’t inform the mayor of Fort Lee in advance of the apocryphal traffic study at the George Washington Bridge. Without a good explanation (and I can’t imagine one now), I think Baroni’s toast.
(Whether Christie knew about the phony traffic study and cover-up is omitted here deliberately. Of course he did. No trial needed to show that).