Christie was not first choice as star of #STTS campaign
Congressman Frank Pallone lied to the Department and Housing and Urban Development’s Inspector General when he asked that they audit the Christie Administration’s 2013 post-Superstorm Sandy Shore Tourism ad campaign.
In his August 8, 2013 letter to HUD Inspector General David Montoya, Pallone said:
Recently released documents relating to the bidding process and contract award for this marketing campaign show that the contract was awarded to a firm that is charging over $2 million more than the next lowest bidder to develop the marketing plan. The winning firm is being paid $4.7 million for their work, while a comparable firm proposed billing the state $2.5 million for similar work. This large discrepancy between the competing proposals raises concerns as to whether these federal funds are being spent in the most cost effective manner, and should be reviewed by your office.
I am also concerned that the winning bid proposed including Governor Chris Christie in the advertisements, while the lower cost proposal that was not selected did not. As you know, the Governor is running for reelection this year in a high profile race. It is inappropriate for taxpayer-funded dollars that are critical to our state’s recovery from this natural disaster to fund commercials that could potentially benefit a political campaign. In these sensitive circumstances, even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided.
The fact that this particular proposal was chosen despite an obvious conflict of interest, in addition to the higher costs, raises serious concerns with the entire process. I fought hard for passage of the Sandy aid package in Congress by assuring my colleagues that this funding was critical to our recovery and that it would be spent responsibly without waste, fraud and abuse. Many in Congress objected to this funding precisely because of concerns their citizens’ tax dollars would be misspent. In that regard, the state’s mismanagement of taxpayer funds for this marketing campaign is extremely troubling, especially when there are so many New Jersey residents still in need of assistance to recover and rebuild from this historic storm.
But the firm behind the #STTS ad campaign, MWW of East Rutherford, said their proposal was $2.745 million under the $25 million budget and $1.47 million lower than the runner-up’s bid. MWW said their proposal offered the lowest hourly rate of all bids.
MMW Senior Vice President Josh Zeitz said that Pallone’s announcement of the HUD audit earlier this week was politically motivated to stir up additional controversy during the media ruckus over the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
“This is a months-old story that has been rehashed for political purposes this week because of the governor’s other issues,” said Zeitz.
Zeitz was an adviser and aide to former Governor Jon Corzine. He was the Democratic candidate for Congress against Rep. Chris Smith in 2008.
Zeitz said MWW welcomed the HUD Inspector General’s audit which would correct the “wildly inaccurate reporting” that was based upon Pallone’s lie that the firm won the bid because they planned to feature Christie in the ads.
“Given widely inaccurate reporting on Stronger than the Storm, we welcome the inspector general’s report. It will show that MWW’s proposal included no mention or suggestion of using the governor in the paid advertising campaign,” the firm said in the statement. “The decision to include the governor was arrived at after the contract was awarded, based on timing, availability, and federal expenditure rules. Assertions to the contrary are simply incorrect.”
Zeitz told Politico that the firm asked Christie and his family to appear in the ads, after the contract was awarded, because Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi were on tour and the deadline was tight, among other reasons.
Pallone’s spokesman, Raymond Zaccarro, stuck to the lie in an interview with Politico on Monday.
“The selection of a company that presented a higher bid for a comparable product raised questions with Congressman Pallone, which is why we’ve asked the inspector general to look at the matter.”