Wolff (& Samson) in the henhouse

Chris Christie, David SamsonThe plot to shut off access to the world’s busiest bridge already ended the careers of two Christie appointees at the Port Authority, the Governor’s deputy chief of staff and his campaign manager.

But on Wednesday Gov. Christie doubled down on a huge player at the Port Authority enmeshed in Bridgegate and a growing number of scandals: Chairman David Samson.

The reports about Christie’s friend and adviser that have come out since Bridgegate broke reflect everything that’s wrong with New Jersey politics.

Samson isn’t just Christie’s top man at the Port Authority, he’s also the head of one of the state’s most influential law and lobbying firms: Wolff & Samson. Wolff & Samson represents developers, construction firms, and various arms of the Christie Administration that stand to profit from Port Authority decisions. And Samson knows how to make money for clients – and consequently for himself. Maybe that’s why his firm’s lobbying profits ballooned from $40,000 before he was appointed Chairman of the Port Authority to $1 million per year after.

Here are two quick examples of Samson & his law firm’s influence over public decisions that benefit his clients:

Harrison: Samson voted to spend $256 million in taxpayer dollars to reconstruct a PATH station. Lo and behold, a chunk of that PATH station will sit on land owned by one Wolff & Samson client – and probably increase the value of a nearby development of another client at the same time. The leading expert on the Port Authority called his vote a “clear ethical violation.”

Hoboken: Mayor Dawn Zimmer has now accused the Christie Administration of holding Hoboken’s Sandy relief hostage unless she fast-tracked a multi-million development. Samson’s law firm represented those developers, striking a secret agreement with New Jersey Transit for a station to serve the development. [3] The developers, feeling the heat, have now fired Wolff & Samson.

Samson so far denies any involvement in the scheme to shut down two lanes of the George Washington Bridge last October, but the Christie appointee who helped orchestrate the closures told another conspirator that Samson was “helping us retaliate” against the New York officials who eventually put an end to their reckless stunt. [4]

We could keep going on about the Port Authority’s takeover of the Atlantic City Airport or Wolff & Samson’s dubious appointment of an “independent auditor” of how Sandy relief was distributed. Check out the articles below if you want to get into the nitty gritty. Or read the excellent editorial from the Star-Ledger calling for Samson to go. [6]

Any one of the scandals described above should by rights cost a public official their job. The Port Authority is a $7 billion a year operation that manages the commutes of millions, and the bombshell revelations of the last few months show just how easily its powers can be misused to reward friends and punish enemies.

Commuters and residents of New York and New Jersey deserve a Port Authority untainted by scandal. Its Chairman should be above even the appearance of impropriety.

David Samson must resign.