Feds investigating Christie's use of Sandy relief funds

Federal officials are investigating New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds, according to a Democratic congressman in the state.

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Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) announced Monday that the House and Urban Development Department’s inspector general will look into whether Christie improperly used the funds for a tourism campaign for the Jersey Shore.

“I commend the HUD Office of the Inspector General for investigating whether the state properly utilized taxpayer funds for this marketing campaign,” Pallone said in a statement Monday.

“Working with my New Jersey colleagues, we had to fight hard to get the Sandy aid package passed by assuring others in Congress the funding was desperately needed and would be spent responsibly. I also raised concerns that Governor Christie and his family appeared in taxpayer-funded advertisements during an election year.”

The investigation, which was first reported by CNN, doesn't appear to be connected to the bridge scandal plaguing Christie’s administration.

Auditors are investigating whether Christie improperly used any of the $25 million in Sandy relief funds to produce tourism ads highlighting the Jersey Shore that starred the governor and his family, Pallone said.

In August, Pallone asked in a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector general to review how the governor distributed the funds.

“This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery. And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven't gotten the money that is owed them to rebuild their homes or raise their homes or to help," Pallone told CNN on Sunday.

In his August letter, Pallone said he was concerned about how the firm for the marketing campaign was chosen. The selected firm charged $4.7 million, compared to a $2.5 million bid from a competitor. The winning firm featured Christie and his family in the advertisements, while the losing bidder did not plan to feature the governor.

In the lead-up to Christie’s reelection last year, Democrats criticized Christie for appearing in these ads, which were paid for with taxpayers’ dollars.

This news comes as Christie is dealing with a scheme some of his top aides orchestrated on the George Washington Bridge, which caused a four-day-long traffic jam last fall.

A panel from the New Jersey state legislature and the U.S. attorney’s office are investigating the lane closures.

--This report was originally published at 6:58 a.m. and last updated at 12:23 p.m.