Adding a headache for Gov. Chris Christie, a federal agency will investigate whether New Jersey improperly spent Hurricane Sandy relief money on an ad campaign that featured the governor while he was running for re-election, a lawmaker said Monday.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development will audit $25 million in federal money that the state spent to promote tourism and the Jersey Shore, said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Pallone is a Democrat, Christie a Republican.
Documents show that the state agreed to pay $4.7 million to a marketing company that proposed developing the ads and including the governor in them, Pallone said in a letter to HUD investigators in August.
Another company had proposed a $2.5 million campaign that did not include the governor, Pallone said.
The ads, which featured Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, ran on television last year, while Christie was cruising to re-election over state Sen. Barbara Buono.
“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,” Pallone said in a statement.
Last week, Christie was drawn into the biggest political scandal of his career after documents suggested that his office engineered a massive traffic jam in the New Jersey city of Fort Lee as an act of political retribution.
The audit of the Sandy money should take several months, Pallone said. HUD did not immediately return a call for comment. Christie’s office also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.