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February 9, 2014

Ex-Port Authority head a key player in NJ scandal

On paper, David Wildstein's title at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was "Director of Interstate Capital Projects." But many who worked there knew his real job — a post created just for him in 2010 — was to further Republican Gov. Chris Christie's agenda inside the agency.

That role gave Wildstein an influence that outstripped his bureaucratic title. He led efforts to give New Jersey officials more sway over authority operations. And he was seen as having unsurpassed connections to Christie's inner circle.

Now, the man who was known as the administration's eyes and ears at the Port Authority may be the public's best chance of knowing the truth behind a plan last summer to purposely create days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., by choking off local access to the George Washington Bridge.

Wildstein, who pushed through the closures after receiving an email from a Christie aide saying, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," has hinted in recent days that he might be willing to tell more about what the governor knew and when he knew it.

Christie and his aides have responded by portraying Wildstein as a duplicitous rogue.

"Bottom line — David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein," Christie's spokesman, Colin Reed, wrote in a memo distributed to the governor's supporters and some journalists.

That break marks an abrupt reversal for an administration that defended Wildstein for years, even in the face of public and private criticism that he was over-politicizing the Port Authority, intimidating the staff and meddling in operations he didn't oversee.

Wildstein, 52, joined the Port Authority as part of a wave of people with political ties who swelled its ranks shortly after Christie took office.

At the time, he had no background in transportation or public works. His previous job had been as the anonymous political blogger, known as Wally Edge, behind the influential website PolitickerNJ.

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