Nobody else seems to care: In yesterday’s New York Times, Michael Powell published an intriguing column about Kim Guadagno, New Jersey’s embattled lieutenant governor.
The piece involves an attack Guadagno launched against a New Jersey artist, an attack which turned out to be unfounded. As Powell began, this is the way he framed the story:
POWELL (1/28/14): In her first year in office, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno opened a frontal attack on an unlikely target, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.The story gets ugly from there. The charges against the man with the contract turned out to be unfounded. But the man was badly harassed in the process.
Its contracting was “inexcusably” flawed, she said. Its practices were “unethical” and too cozy. Its director had to go.
Ms. Guadagno went on like this for months in 2010, and no one knew what to make of it. She wanted more control over the Arts Council, which distributed $16 million a year all over the state and was broadly respected.
In spring 2011, she began a new offensive. She went before legislative committees and pilloried a man doing work on an Arts Council contract, building a 9/11 timeline at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. His contract was no-bid, she said, the money unclear.
Why did Guadagno stage these jihads? The highlighted passage makes it sound like she wanted more control over New Jersey state money. This would be a familiar type of motive, though it could of course never excuse the conduct Powell describes.
Later in the piece, though, Powell seems to say that Guadagno had had control of the money all along. This leaves us somewhat puzzled about that opening framework:
POWELL: The Star-Ledger of Newark, which did a fine job of scratching at this tale, examined the state’s claims: that the Arts Council had “engaged in an inexcusable breach of the public trust” and that the three contracts had been improperly awarded to Mr. Aubrey.Whatever! New Jersey scandals have come center stage, and there will be lots of reporting.
“None of it was true,” the newspaper noted in a December 2011 editorial. “The state could find no evidence of wrongdoing.”
It was, in fact, worse than that. The lieutenant governor and Department of State, it turns out, had control of the Arts Council’s spending all along. Her divisions signed off on every payment.
This morning, Kate Zernike reports in detail, and perhaps in nothing but detail, about the way the Christie regime pursued endorsements and votes across the state in his bid for re-election.
In the realm of gonzo detail, the Times includes floor plans for the governor’s suite in the New Jersey State House. By the time Zernike gets through with this case, the story line for Oceans 14 may get pulled off there.
On the other hand, there isn’t much in this report that directly relates to the question at hand: What explains the traffic lane closings which occurred in Fort Lee?
The drift of the piece seems somewhat clear—of course Christie would have known about that kind of conduct! Meanwhile, we were struck by the way Zernike continues to claim that the basic riddle surrounding this case has been solved:
ZERNIKE: Officially known as “intergovernmental affairs,” the operation was a key element of the permanent campaign that allowed Mr. Christie to win twice in a largely Democratic state. It was led by Bill Stepien, his two-time campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, and then by Bridget Anne Kelly, who succeeded him in his role in the governor’s office.Zernike persists with her claim, which she first made on January 9. According to Zernike, it has been “revealed” that the lane closings were “an act of political retribution” against the Fort Lee mayor.
They were part of what one high-ranking Republican called “the crew” around Mr. Christie: friends who strategized at Mr. Christie’s kitchen table in Mendham and socialized with him in the governor’s box at MetLife Stadium.
Now this operation is at the heart of the growing scandal over the closing of lanes at the George Washington Bridge in an act of political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.
No one else seems to believe that the question of motive has been established. In a rare break with normal practice, Rachel Maddow has correctly noted that none of the documents released in this case establish the motive for the lane closings.
No one except the perpetrators know why they did it, Maddow has said.
Unless you read the New York Times! According to the Times, the motive became clear on January 8, with the release of just the first 22 pages of emails. Again today, Zernike has reported the motive as an established fact.
Please note the silence which obtains about the work of the Times.
No one else seems to think that the motive has been established. For that reason, Maddow has advanced a second theory concerning Christie’s supposed fury about Democratic opposition to a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice.
Steve Kornacki has floated a third speculation—a billion dollar development in Fort Lee may have been the real target of the lane closings, he has suggested, for reasons which haven’t been fully developed.
Meanwhile, the New York Times just keeps reporting that the motive has been established—“revealed.”
No one else seems to think that's true, and the Times has never detailed its reasoning. But so what? It’s the New York Times! We’ve seen no one say a word about Zernike’s repeated assertion.
If you’re planning a heist at New Jersey’s State House, Zernike’s the person with the floor plans. Aside from that, she keeps asserting a basic claim which no one else thinks is true.
The Times keeps making this unproven claim to its poorly served readers. No one else seems to notice or care.