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Christie appointee David Samson, part-time Chairman of Port Authority and full-time owner of law firm doing business with the Port, pleads guilty to felony count of bribery By Adrian Courtenay Back in May 2014, Government Security News published an article describing a speech given by NY Senator Charles Schumer, in which the Senator called for reforms and Congressional oversight of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was mired in scandals. These included the famous “Bridge Gate” scandal, in which lane closures on the first day of a new school year caused a monumental traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, the most heavily traveled bridge in the world. The traffic jam lasted four days. One elderly woman died because they could not get her to a hospital in time. It was widely believed that the shutdown was ordered as a punishment to the Mayor of Fort Lee, NJ for not supporting Governor Christie in a previous election campaign (even though the mayor was a Democrat). And as it turned out, the lane closures had been ordered by one David Wildstein, a highschool colleague and appointee of NJ Governor Christie who worked at the Port Authority and got paid very well, despite having no job description. He later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy against civil rights. In an appropriate finale to his memorable performance at the Port Authority, Attorney Wildstein agreed to testify against his colleagues who were involved in Bridge Gate. As Senator Schumer described the 4
situation, “The Port Authority has come to be seen as a proverbial honey pot, a cookie jar, a rainy day fund – whatever metaphor you prefer, for state projects outside the Port’s core mission. Over the years, said the Senator, the ‘honey pot’ mentality has turned the Port Authority into a 50-50 operation between two states that has killed the ability of the Port Authority to think big and act big.” This was a reference to the fact that the Port Authority was governed by the Governors of the two states, who competed with each other for how much money they could take out of the Port Authority for their states, according to Senator Schumer. Decrying the use of the Port Authority to fund pet state projects, for example, the Senator cited the Christie administration’s use of $1.8 billion in Port Authority funds to pay for repairing state roads such as the Pulaski Skyway. “The Pulaski Skyway is neither owned nor in any way operated by the Port Authority, Schumer pointed out. “It is a state road system and its maintenance and development should be funded as such”. It was all reminiscent of the famous line from Senator Everett Dirksen of many years ago: “A few billion here and a few billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” But the revelations about prominent Christie appointees in top David Samson, former Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 5 leadership positions in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey kept coming. Next, the daily newspapers, TV stations and online media started reporting that the eminent Chairman of the Port Authority, David Samson, former Attorney General of New Jersey and another longstanding friend (and catastrophic appointment) of Governor Christie, had accepted the chairmanship appointment by Christie at the $4-billion-plus per year Port Authority on a part-time basis, which allowed him to be, according to Wikipedia, “the leader of a law firm with clients seeking favorable outcomes with the Port Authority”. As later disclosed, Chairman Samson’s law firm, Wolff and Samson, “had been very close to the state’s government for decades and had served as outside counsel to state agencies, and it had also lobbied agencies on behalf of clients seeking state contracts, favorable regulation changes and approval for large development projects” – which must be a pretty lucrative job if you’re getting a hefty retainer from your clients and then walking around to the other side of desk to sit down in the Chairman’s chair, where you can give your clients the good news that