Taxpayer Tab in Bridgegate Scandal Exceeds $15M

TRENTON (AP) -

Taxpayers have paid $15 million for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s legal response to the George Washington Bridge scandal, according to records, and the cost could climb since digital records must be retained during an appeal.

Data forensics firm Stroz Friedberg billed the state about $700,000 in 2017 and $60,000 in 2018 after two former Christie allies were convicted in a 2016 criminal trial, bringing the total amount paid to the firm to $4.1 million.

The bills are a reminder of the political-legal drama that engulfed the Republican’s second term, contributing to his sinking approval ratings and helping to weigh down his presidential aspirations. Christie has denied any wrongdoing and was never charged.

The 2013 decision to shut down the world’s busiest bridge stemmed from a political revenge plot against the mayor of Fort Lee over his failure to endorse Christie’s re-election.

Bill Baroni, the former Port Authority deputy executive director, and Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, were convicted of carrying out the plot. They are appealing their convictions in federal court.

The new bills do not reflect $9.1 million paid to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which produced a report that cleared Christie. It also does not include the $2.1 million paid to King & Spalding.

The total taxpayer tab grows further when accounting for the $1 million spent by the Democratic-led Legislature and federal investigation.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who co-chaired the probe, questioned whether taxpayers should still have to foot the bill.

“It’s an exorbitant expense for something that we never quite got the whole story,” she said.