Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 9, 2014

Ex-Port Authority head a key player in NJ scandal

(Continued)

Under his leadership, the site became known for nonpartisan scoops on New Jersey political news. A former reporter there, Brian Murphy, said in an piece on the blog Talking Points Memo that Wildstein was "a fiercely loyal editor and advocate" — albeit one he never actually met. Wildstein was so secretive, even his employees didn't know his identity.

Even as he ran the site, Wildstein worked as a Republican operative, following a love of rough-and-tumble politics dating back to his days as a high school classmate of Christie's in Livingston, N.J.

While still a student, Wildstein ran for a spot on the local school board — a campaign marred by a teacher's accusation that the teenager had tricked him into signing an endorsement letter published in the town newspaper. In the mid-1980s, he had a stint on the Livingston town council and served a year as its mayor.

Christie now says the two barely knew each other.

"David and I were not friends in high school," Christie said in a news conference Jan. 9. "We didn't travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time ... We went 23 years without seeing each other. And in the years we did see each other, we passed in the hallways."

At the Port Authority, Wildstein became a central figure in a revived power struggle between people installed by the Christie administration and officials who reported back to the governor of New York.

More than once, officials on the New York side complained to their New Jersey counterparts that Wildstein was bullying employees and exercising an outsized degree of control over people he didn't directly supervise.

The authority's manager of the George Washington Bridge, Robert Durando, later told a legislative committee it was Wildstein's reputation and perceived connections that kept him from asking too many questions when he was given an order to restrict access to the span from Fort Lee — and do it without telling any local authorities what was about to happen.

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