While the state continues to close the vice around embattled engineering firm Birdsall Services group and its current and former executives, one question is making the whisper rounds: Where did the hundreds of thousands of campaign contributions the firm is alleged to have sent to state politicians go?
According to an email obtained by PolitickerNJ, the firm was co-host of a fundraiser for Gov. Chris Christie during Christie's 2009 run for office. The firm co-hosted the fundraiser for the then gubernatorial candidate on Sept. 22, 2009 and partnered with lawfirm Giordano, Halleran and Ciesla, according to the email from former executive Phil Angarone, who pleaded guilty in November to tampering with public records.
A spokesman for Giordano Halleran confirmed via email that the two firms acted as co-hosts, however a spokesman for Christie said the campaign has no record that Birdsall was a part of the event.
"The campaign has no record that Birdsall had anything to do with the fundraiser," said campaign spokesman Mike DuHaime. "We don't have a record of any donations from anyone working at Birdsall. I could send an email saying I won the Stanley Cup, that doesn't make it true."
But the email from Angarone to 33 firm executives makes clear that all recipients are expected to do their part.
"BSG is pleased to announce our participation in a Chris Christie for Governor fundraiser," The email from Angarone read. "BSG is co-sponsoring the fundraiser with the law firm of Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, P.C. An invitation is attached. Please note the time has changed from what was originally scheduled. It is now 6:00pm. This is a very important event for the firm so we are hoping that everyone will be able to attend."
The fundraiser took place at Bamm Hollow Country Club in Lincroft and according to the invitation, the cost was $300 per head.
ELEC records show about $80,000 in donations received on Sept. 22, 2009, including several $300 checks from Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, P.C., and other checks for as little as $50, but nothing from anyone listed as working for Birdsall.
The $300 cost of the fundraiser is below the threshold for reporting the name of a donor, but DuHaime said Christie reported every donation in 2009 whether it broke the $300 threshold or not, so if ELEC doesn't show it, the donation was not received, he said.
At least one employee of the firm claims to have attended the event and brought several of Birdsall's vendors with him.
According to the indictments of Angarone and other corporate executives including former President Howard Birdsall, the firm for years was engaged in a practice of having employees donate to specific candidates and then reimbursing them in the form of a bonus. According to prosecutors the intent was to circumvent pay to play laws.
According to records filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, Birdsall has reaped more than $86 million in revenue on public contracts since 2008. The firm has dozens of contracts with local county and state agencies and is among the largest public works contractors in the state.
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"Christie’s method for coping with scandal has been more complicated. In January, the seemingly-local issue of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, which created a massive traffic jam in the Hudson River town of Fort Lee, became one of national interest when it was revealed that one of Christie’s closest staffers had ordered them—for what looked like political retribution against a Democratic mayor. The scandal was quickly dubbed 'Bridgegate,' and unfortunately for Christie, it played into his reputation as a bully. Christie's response was to act unlike himself: humble." - Olivia Nuzzi- The Daily Beast
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