The political consulting firm of Bill Stepien – a former Christie confidant who was a key player in the “Bridgegate” George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal – has been hired by the Ocean County and Brick Township Republican organizations, campaign finance statements revealed. The law firm of David Samson, who recently pleaded guilty to felony bribery charges, was also previously hired by Ocean County.
With “Bridgegate” back in the headlines this week as one of Governor Chris Christie’s longtime political allies, David Samson, pleaded guilty to a felony count of bribery that stemmed from the federal investigation into the Fort Lee, NJ lane closures, Ocean County Politics has discovered a connection between key Bridgegate players – David Samson & Bill Stepien – and members of the Ocean County Republican machine.
Mr. Samson was charged with allegedly bribing United Airlines to keep an unprofitable airline route in operation under threat of having other projects delayed by the Port Authority, which Samson chaired at the time of the incidents.
Throughout Governor Christie’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, the governor continued to be dogged by the scandal’s damage to his image. Most recently, state taxpayers were given the “privilege” of footing the bill for Governor Chris Christie’s legal bills, to the tune of over $10.5 million.
Before Samson’s law firm was renamed after the scandal, his firm raked in thousands of dollars worth of contracts from public entities around the state, with the County of Ocean spending $277,722.65 in legal services with Wolff & Samson in 2013, the last time they did business with him, according to pay-to-play disclosures filed with the state.
Additionally, campaign finance records revealed that Bill Stepien – a key player in Governor Christie’s rise to power who managed both of his gubernatorial campaigns and served as his deputy chief of staff – has been hired as a consultant by both the Ocean County and Brick Township Republicans, with Stepien most recently performing work for both in the 2015 general election, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
Last year, Stepien’s company, Nassau Strategies, did mailers and other related work for the Ocean County GOP including Freeholder John Bartlett & Gerry Little’s reelection ticket as well as the campaign of Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella, all of whom were successful in their reelection bids.
The Ocean County Republican Finance Committee, chaired by Lacey lawyer Jerry Dasti, paid Nassau Strategies $35,198.32.
The 2015 GOP Brick Township Council campaign of Frank Pannucci, Michael Conti, Martin Ebert, and Charles Bacon paid out $52,163.47 to Stepien for campaign mailers and robo calls throughout the 2015 race, but even with Stephen’s help, they were not able to beat incumbent Democrats James Fozman, Andrea Zapcic, Lisa Crate, and Arthur Halloran.
Ocean County’s candidates were far from the only ones to hire Stepien, with the former Christie confidant also getting hired by the New Jersey Republican State Committee and GOPAC, a political action committee that works to elect Republican candidates nationwide.
Stepien, despite being tied to the criminal conspiracy to close lanes of the George Washington Bridge for a political reprisal, is also the recently appointed executive director of new conservative “think-tank” “Building a Better New Jersey Together,” a group believed to be an incubator for a potential Kim Guadagdno gubernatorial run.