-by Brad Friedman
September 8, 2011- Well, it looks like Part 2 of my Secret Koch Tapes exclusive at Mother Jones yesterday has ignited a political firestorm. Several of them, actually, particularly in the state of New Jersey. Oops.
One of the firestorms has even led the Democratic Speaker of the NJ Assembly to call Gov. Chris Christie "disgraceful," charge that his comments about her were "outright lies," that he is "not fit to lead the state," and that she is "beginning to wonder if Gov. Christie is mentally deranged." All statements given to local media late today in response to our release of the tapes. Though some local Dems are still wondering if it may be the Speaker, rather than Christie, who is hiding the truth.
As I described in my BRAD BLOG piece linking to Part 2 at MoJo on Wednesday morning, the good citizens of the Garden State (and the whole of the mainstream media along with them) learned only yesterday that their Republican Governor had snuck out of state on June 26th, right after appearing on Meet the Press, jetted across the country to deliver the keynote address at the super-secret, ultra-exclusive gathering of rightwing corporate barons and billionaires — otherwise known as the Koch Brothers 2011 Summer Seminar — at a resort near Vail, Colorado, before he then flew back home to NJ that night, and went on to appear on three cable news shows, in studio in Manhattan, the next morning. Nobody ever knew he was gone — at least until my story broke at MoJo yesterday morning.
Since then, local media and politicos have been combing through our report — and Tuesday's Part 1 before it, as described later that night. They've apparently been digging through the full transcript of Christie's remarks, and David Koch's introduction to it, as transcribed from a secret audio recording of the goings on at the Koch fete, which we obtained from an insider source.
More on the Part 2 fallout, including new details, confirmations from officials, ignited firestorms and opened hornets' nests below. But first, I wanted to front page these nice comments from an NPR report by Frank James, which helps to put this entire flurry of Koch muckraking in perspective:\
The reports are well worth taking time to read not just for the secret thrill you'll get from glimpsing something never intended for the public eye.
It's a look behind the curtain of how big money is raised in conservative circles that's a worthwhile addition to our sum of knowledge about how American politics is practiced in the early 21st Century.
Indeed. And with that, on to the summary of yesterday's noteworthy fallout and, at points, rather mucky, developments…
• 'SMOKING GUN': One of the eyebrow raising revelations from billionaire brother David Koch's introduction to Christie's speech (read it/listen to it in full here), was that he'd privately met with the Governor five months prior to the secret Vail event, "just the two of us — for about two hours." Afterward, Koch says on the tapes, he determined that Christie was "my kind of guy."
A few months later — exactly one month prior to his appearance in Vail — Christie would use his executive powers to unilaterally withdraw the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pronounced "Reggie"), a pact of 10 Northeastern states to develop a cap-and-trade market to curb pollutants, and use the resulting funds to invest in clean energy initiatives. The Kochs, funders of much of the Global Warming Denial Movement and owners of the huge oil and chemical conglomerate Koch Industries, the country's second largest privately held company, hate RGGI and have been working to undermine it through their various foundations and front groups.
AP has picked up on that part of our story and reports that environmentalists view the disclosure of Christie's private meeting with Koch as a "smoking gun."
"This is the smoking gun that shows he's been working with the Koch brothers from the beginning," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told AP.
A spokesman for Christie, however, tells the news service that the timing of the events, both the Vail speech and the private NYC meeting with Koch five months prior, was "wholly unconnected" to Christie's decision to pull out of RGGI.