Politics

02.14.14

Christie and Wildstein: An Online Bromance

Before he became Chris Christie’s man at the Port Authority, David Wildstein was his de facto publicist online.

Today, he’s one of the key players in the George Washington Bridge scandal. But David Wildstein was once the anonymous force behind a powerful New Jersey political website that gave disproportionate attention to a heroic, Springsteen-loving “corruption buster” named Chris Christie.

Wildstein started the insidery PoliticsNJ.com in 2000. His rundown of must-know stories, The Inside Edge, reads like the early aughts' Jersey version of Politico’s Playbook. Sources—like U.S. Attorney Chris Christie—sent tips to politicsnj@aol.com.

Edge covered the future governor closely—through good times and missteps. And through it all, he provided Christie with what he ultimately needed most: publicity.

When PoliticsNJ.com began, Christie was an obscure, failed county legislator. Yet, he appeared as a Winner of the Week when he won a small legal victory against a former opponent. Wally Edge then followed Christie’s moves as he went on to fundraise for George W. Bush, frequently mentioning him in The Inside Edge.

Once Christie became U.S. attorney in 2002, Wally Edge’s coverage of Christie’s ascendance read like a Superman comic. In 2007, Wally Edge inexplicably asked his readers in a poll, “What should Chris Christie run for?” A 53 percent majority voted “He shouldn’t run for anything.” That same year, Wally Edge ran an item discussing Christie’s love for Bruce Springsteen, despite Magic, an album which both criticized the Republican in the White House and featured music that was not technically, um, good. Wally Edge soon put out an updated version of the post, including a direct quote from Christie talking about his unwavering support for Springsteen. “I love the new album. I love Bruce Springsteen as a performer. I can’t wait for the next show!!”

A quick scroll through the PoliticsNJ.com archives will tell you that Wildstein loved the politics game; that he was fascinated by the players; and that he also didn’t take it too seriously. The name Wildstein assumed, Wally Edge, belonged to a former governor of New Jersey who died in 1956. In September 2000, Wally Edge invited then-governor Christie Todd Whitman to his “127th birthday celebration.” He received a letter back from Whitman’s office, thanking him for his “kind invitation” but “regretfully” declining it. Edge published the letter on his site.

Wildstein unofficially retired from PoliticsNJ.com in 2010, and was brought on as director of interstate projects for the Port Authority by Christie-appointee Bill Baroni—by that point, the secret that Wildstein was Wally Edge was out.

Once the future governor became U.S. attorney in 2002, Wildstein’s coverage of Christie’s ascendance read like a Superman comic.

Wildstein’s job at the Port Authority did not exist before he took it. The leader of the Bridgegate investigation, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, told me that Wildstein’s job was not typical. “You don’t respond to an ad on Craigslist to get that job,” he said. The position was perfect for someone who was “viewed as very close to the administration and willing to do the administration’s bidding—not a rogue agent or independent player. You don’t get to that position by being an independent operator who tells the governor, ‘I think you’re wrong’—that’s not how it happens.”

When the facts about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge that created traffic hell in Fort Lee failed to add up, Wildstein was subpoenaed by the Transportation Committee chaired by Wisniewski. Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority on Dec. 6, 2013. A few weeks later, on Dec. 23, his attorney turned over documents. They contained within them evidence that not only did Wildstein help orchestrate a bogus traffic study, but that he was taking orders from inside Gov. Christie’s office. When Wildstein was questioned by the committee in January, he pleaded the Fifth. Since then, Wildstein has threatened—in vague terms through his lawyer—to flip on Christie.

Whenever Chris Christie actually found out that the person he was sending tips to at PoliticsNJ.com was David Wildstein, it was public knowledge that Christie signed off on his hiring at the Port Authority.

It’s nice to have friends in high-Internet-places, especially when they used to be your de facto publicist.

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Then-nobody Chris Christie won a small legal victory in 2001, which was news in Wally Edge’s eyes.

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Chris Christie may be a “loser,” but the implication is that he should have received consideration for a top federal appointment.

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Reporting on the U.S. attorney like he was already a celebrity was a favorite activity of Wally Edge’s.

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Chris Christie then reached out himself to Wally Edge to offer his opinion about The Boss for an updated version of the article.

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“What should Chris Christie run for?” Wally Edge asked, for some reason (that was totally, definitely not that he wanted Christie to run for something).

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Wally Edge made it a point to use his extensive knowledge of Chris Christie’s political views whenever he could.

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The Adventures of Super U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, as told by Wally Edge.

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Wally Edge was thrilled at the possibility of another Chris Christie victory.

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Wally Edge wants you to know that Chris Christie’s dance card is FULL. I wonder who the source was on this story?

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All requests for a Chris Christie appearance at your party can be sent to his manager, Wally Edge.

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Wally Edge is not trying to plant the idea that Chris Christie is like Thomas Jefferson in this article where he compares Chris Christie and Thomas Jefferson… That would be too much!

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Wally Edge is impressed by Chris Christie’s strength among his party.

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Chris Christie’s press release—erm, I mean this Wally Edge article—outlines Christie’s strong showing in the Republican primary.

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Wally Edge wanted his readers to know that Chris Christie was deemed a serious threat by Dems.

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Wally Edge had been waiting to use this line for over a decade.

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Shorter Wally Edge: THIS is how important Chris Christie is.

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Wally Edge knew what a bro Chris Christie was!

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It's almost like Wally Edge had a source inside the fundraiser.

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Corzine’s big spending made Chris Christie the underdog, and Wally Edge wanted to make sure that everyone knew that.

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Wally Edge thought an attack on Chris Christie was “dumb."

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Chris Christie’s big heart was big news for Wally Edge.

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Somehow, Wally Edge thought that a person telling their story about being in a car accident with Chris Christie was their attempt to get “fifteen more minutes of fame” because… Because.