Federal officials are looking into whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) improperly put Hurricane Sandy relief funds towards Jersey Shore tourism ads, CNN reported Monday.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) told CNN that federal auditors are expected to examine the state’s use of $25 million in Sandy relief funds to market the tourism campaign, which starred Christie and his family. Pallone asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development inspector general in August to look into how Christie spent the funds.
“This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery,” the New Jersey congressman told CNN. “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 wrote in his letter to HUD that he was concerned about the bidding process for the ads, according to CNN. The winning bid for the marketing plan featuring Christie, he noted, cost $2 million more than the losing firm’s proposal, which did not feature the governor and his family.
A Christie spokesman said Monday in a statement obtained by National Review that the ad campaign, titled “Stronger Than The Storm,” was “developed with the goal of effectively communicating that the Jersey Shore was open for business during the first summer after Sandy” and was approved by the Obama administration.
“Federal agency reviews are routine and standard operating procedure with all federally allocated resources to ensure that funds are distributed fairly,” Christie’s Deputy Communications Director Colin Reed said in the statement, as quoted by National Review. “We’re confident that any review will show that the ads were a key part in helping New Jersey get back on its feet after being struck by the worst storm in state history.”
Christie has been criticized for the tourism ads in the past: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) suggested that using taxpayer dollars to produce the Jersey Shore ads was a “conflict of interest.”
This post has been updated.