By Justin Sink
Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is headlining a series of high-stakes fundraising events in Florida this weekend, in a major test of his fundraising prowess after revelations that his aides were involved in a revenge scheme to shut down one of the world’s busiest bridges.
Christie, the chair of the Republican Governors Association, will hold three fundraisers on Saturday and another two on Sunday to benefit Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
But the controversy over the bridge scandal will loom large over each of the events.
Earlier this month, emails and text messages revealed that top Christie aides ordered a traffic study of the George Washington Bridge. The move, which snarled traffic for four days, came in apparent retribution for the mayor of a nearby town refusing to endorse his reelection campaign.
Christie has apologized and fired one of the aides, but Democrats have maintained that he was responsible at least for cultivating a culture of bullying in the governor’s office.
On Saturday, the mayor of Hoboken said other officials within Christie’s administration threatened to withhold hurricane relief funds unless she approved a redevelopment plan supported by the governor’s office. And the New Jersey assemblyman chairing the committee investigating the bridge scandal has indicated he could expand his investigation into the Hoboken allegations, which Christie’s office denies.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) will hold press conferences in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday intended to highlight the bridge scandal.
The DNC also released a web video mocking Christie for making the fundraising swing.
“In the midst of scandal, Chris Christie is taking a fundraising trip to Florida,” on-screen text reads over tropical music and a picture of the governor standing near palm trees. “But some Florida Republicans aren’t exactly happy to see him.”
The video goes on to quote Republican donors complaining in the press about Christie’s appearances at the events.
Florida GOP chairman Lenny Curry called the Wasserman Schultz’s events “ridiculous” in a statement Saturday.
"It's ridiculous that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is spending her Saturday in her home state determined to create a political sideshow rather than working on the issues that matter to her constituents,” Curry said.
“The Congresswoman’s attempt at drawing attention to herself today further proves that Florida Democrats and her liberal buddies in Washington have no positive agenda to offer to Floridians."
Other top Republicans have defended Christie, arguing he acted decisively once details of the scandal emerged.
“A member of his administration did something that he was unaware of and that he found reprehensible,” former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told the Washington Post. “He faced the American people for two hours, took their questions. He dismissed people who were responsible. He took personal responsibility. That’s what a leader does.”