GOP media consultant apologizes for calling strategist ‘snake’ after ‘Bridgegate’ comments about party executive director

By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor

 

CONCORD – A Republican consultant who works with Scott Brown’s Senate campaign, while in an advisory role for the New Hampshire Republican Party in January, called a GOP political strategist a “snake” in an email that emerged Tuesday during a New Jersey legislative committee’s probe of the “Bridgegate” scandal.

 

 

The consultant, Ryan Williams, apologized to the strategist, Michael Dennehy, Tuesday afternoon.

 

 

The committee questioned at length New Hampshire Executive Director Matt Mowers, a former state and then campaign aid to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on what he knew about the scandal that resulted in the firing of Christie’s deputy chief of staff. Mowers said he knew nothing about it until at least three weeks after it occurred.

 

 

The state Democratic Party, however, blasted Mowers as he concluded his testimony, charging he has brought “Chris Christie’s brand of revenge motivated politics” to New Hampshire.

 

At one point in the proceeding, the New Hampshire GOP political figures entered into the questioning.

 

Mowers was initially subpoenaed to provide documents to the committee in mid-December of 2013, shortly after he moved to New Hampshire to become the top staffer at the NHGOP.

 

At that point, Mowers’ emails showed, he began to be advised on how to deal with media inquiries about the subpoena by Williams, who was then communications advisor to the party and is now a consultant who works with the Brown Senate campaign.

 

A committee member pointed Mowers to a Jan. 17 story on the WMUR web site about Mowers being subpoenaed initially to provide documents.

 

The story quoted veteran Republican political strategist Dennehy (who is a member of the board of directors of NHJournal.com) saying, “We are not going to know the public answers for a while, so the open and honest part, the transparent part from the GOP is very important, so Matt Mowers has to be very clear and open about what’s going on with him to even be able to do his job effectively.”

 

Williams, apparently viewing the comment as critical of Mowers, then sent Mowers an email calling Dennehy “a snake” and saying,  “Please make sure your folks see to it so there is no possible way that Dennehy gets hired for Christie in ’16.”

 

Mowers then forwarded the email to top Christie strategist Michael DuHaime, with the note, “so much for my buddy” Dennehy “who just bought me lunch two weeks ago.”

 

Willliams said Tuesday afternoon he spoke with Dennehy and apologized.

 

“We had a good laugh about it. It’s water under the bridge,” Williams said. “Mike’s a good guy.”

 

Dennehy said, “It’s just not a big deal to me.”

 
The exchange about the New Hampshire figures was just one part of a daylong series of questions directed at Mowers, who was regional director of the Christie office of intergovernmental affairs and later held a regional political director role for the Christie campaign. He had been subpoenaed a second time, this time to provide oral testimony to the Democratic-led panel.

 

 

Mowers told the committee he was “dumbfounded and “disappointed” to learn that the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., was targeted in the “Bridgegate” scandal that has embroiled Christie in controversy.

 

Mowers said he was not involved in the plot, adding, “Today, I sit here dumbfounded and disappointed that the actions seemingly taken by a few rogue individuals have tainted the good work that so many have done on behalf of the residents of New Jersey.”

 

Mowers told the committee he “never engaged in political conversations” while working in Gov. Chris Christie’s intergovernmental affairs office.

 

He has been identified as the Christie administration official who asked the Fort Lee mayor to endorse Christie, but Mowers said that in fact the mayor, Mark Sokolich, mentioned the possibility of an endorsement to him. Sokolich never did endorse Christie, which led to the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and massive traffic jams in Sokolich’s community.

 

Mowers said he did not hear of the early September lane closures until about three weeks after they occurred happened, and he believed he first heard of it from former Christie political advisor Bill Stepien, who said there had been media calls about what Stepien called a “ridiculous” story.

 

“In my mind the idea that realigning lanes to get local drivers to blame a local mayor for a traffic backup was very unbelievable and even in retrospect is incomprehensible,” Mowers said.

 

The state Democratic Party, in a lengthy email after Mowers concluded his testimony, said Mowers has brought a “dirty” and “disrespectful, nasty style of bully politics to the state.”

 

“While Mowers was sent to New Hampshire to lay the groundwork for Governor Christie’s 2016 run for President, he has accomplished the exact opposite: eroding Christie’s standing with Granite State voters. Beyond that, he has turned the New Hampshire Republican Party into a spiteful, nasty shell of its former self.

 
“Coverage of Mowers involvement in the BridgeGate scandal, as well as his own ‘rude’ and ‘dirty’ political tactics are poisoning Christie’s chances in our critical first in the nation primary,” the NHDP charged.

 

The party also noted that Colin Reed, a former Christie staffer who is now campaign manager for Brown, has had his emails subpoenaed.

 

“It is clear that the nasty, callous, and disrespectful behavior embodied by Christie and his staff have grown to near epidemic levels within the New Hampshire Republican Party,” said NHDP spokesman Lucas Meyer.

 

The party cited a “sexist” Twitter post by the NHGOP about Sen. Jeanne Shaheen after she cheered a Boston Bruins win; the GOP’s comments after its candidate won the Executive Council special election; and Mower’s allegedly “rude” interaction with the staff at a non-political event attended by Shaheen.
 

(Our earlier report follows.)

 

 

CONCORD — New Hampshire Republican Party executive director Matt Mowers is in Trenton Tuesday to testify before the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation about the lane closures at the eastern end of the George Washington Bridge last September.

 

 

The scandal that embroiled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, in controversy for months continues to be probed by the Democratic-led panel.

 

 

The committee has been meeting over the course of several months to get to the heart of the lane closures in Fort Lee, N.J., which led Christie to fire his deputy chief of staff.

 

 

Mowers told the committee he was “dumbfounded and “disappointed” to learn that the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., was targeted in the “Bridgegate” scandal that has embroiled Gov. Chris Christie in controversy.

 
Mowers said he was not involved in the plot, adding, “Today, I sit here dumbfounded and disappointed that the actions seemingly taken by a few rogue individuals have tainted the good work that so many have done on behalf of the residents of New Jersey.”

 
Mowers told the committee he ‘never engaged in political conversation’ while working in Gov. Chris Christie’s intergovernmental affairs office.

 

NHJournal.com first reported in late April that Mowers was subpoenaed to testify. He was originally scheduled to appear last Tuesday, May 13, but the hearing was postponed due to a scheduling issue.

 
Mowers has also voluntarily met in private with the committee attorneys.

 
Mowers spent more than two years as a regional director in the governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs before leaving last April to join Christie’s re-election campaign as a regional political director.

 
He joined the NHGOP following Christie’s victory last November.

 
During his time as a state employee Mowers spoke twice to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich about endorsing Christie. The lane closures, which caused massive backups in Fort Lee, were meant to punish Democrat Sokolich for not endorsing the Republican governor.

 
However, according to NorthJersey.com, Mowers, in an interview with a team of internal investigators hired by Christie, said the mayor first raised the topic of an endorsement and that after he left to work for the campaign he did not seek Sokolich’s support.

 

 

 

According to NorthJersey.com, Garden State Republicans on Monday again called for an end to the hearings and said the committee should instead focus its attention on reforming the Port Authority.

 

 

But Democrats maintain Mowers and others have information that would help them determine a top aide in Christie’s office was apparently able to order a Port Authority official to close the access lanes to the bridge.

 

 

“We do know that the allegation raised by Mayor Sokolich was that the lane closures were some how done as punishment to him for something,” John Wisniewski, co-chair of the committee, told NorthJersey.com. “So we need to understand what Mr. Mowers knew, we need to understand who directed him to undertake the work that he did and we need to understand more about what was hoped to be obtained by those efforts.”

 

 

Mowers is among a team of people who worked to secure campaign endorsements from the same Democratic local officials they worked with in their state jobs, NorthJersey.com reported.

 

 

In New Hampshire, Mowers has been strongly supported by state GOP Chair Jennifer Horn, but roundly criticized by Democrats on social media.

 

 

(Our earlier report on Mowers being subpoenaed, dated April 29, follows.)

 

 

CONCORD — New Hampshire Republican Party Executive Director Matt Mowers has been subpoenaed to provide oral testimony to a New Jersey legislative committee investigating the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal involving lane closures at the George Washington Bridge last September, sources and the state GOP confirmed Tuesday night.

 
Mowers, a former aid in Gov. Chris Christie’s office, and also on Christie’s reelection campaign has already been identified as the person who discussed a possible endorsement of Christie with Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

 

 
Now, sources say, he served with a subpoena and has been called to Trenton to provide oral testimony on May 13. The NH Journal first reported the news of Mowers’ subpoena on Twitter earlier Tuesday evening.

 
Mowers declined any comment on the subpoena Tuesday night.

 
But NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn issued a statement saying that Mowers “has simply been asked to provide information regarding this issue and he has fully has cooperated with all previous requests. Matt will continue to cooperate with any legitimate investigation. I have full confidence in Matt and look forward to his continued efforts to build the grassroots infrastructure we need to win in November.”

 
She called Mowers “a valued member of our team.”

 
State Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley said in a statement:

 

“As soon as Matt Mowers began his work as the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, it became evident that the Chris Christie culture of intimidation and personal attacks had infiltrated the NHGOP. It has been over three months since the fallout from this scandal found its way into New Hampshire, and there are still countless question for both Matt Mowers and Chris Christie to answer. It is our hope that Matt Mowers will fully cooperate and comply with all investigations, on both a state and federal level.”

Author: John DiStaso

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