TRENTON, N.J. — Federal prosecutors in New Jersey, investigating potential conflicts involving the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are focusing on whether he helped steer $2.8 billion in construction contracts to companies his law firm represented.
Chairman David Samson, a key figure in the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, is an appointee of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
His law firm, Wolff & Samson, and an affiliated lobbying business have seen dramatic increases in revenues from public contracts, an Asbury Park Press review of documents found.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the office of Paul Fishman, U.S. attorney for New Jersey, issued subpoenas last week for records on two bridge contracts that Samson voted to award to companies his law firm represented.
The contracts in April authorized spending $1.5 billion to replace and maintain the Goethals Bridge, which connects Elizabeth, N.J., to Staten Island, N.Y., and $1.3 billion to raise the Bayonne Bridge from Bayonne, N.J., to Staten Island.
The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who heads the federal prosecutor's office in Manhattan, also subpoenaed the records but that demand was withdrawn. It's unclear why New York prosecutors withdrew their subpoena; officials would not confirm what transpired.
At a Port Authority board meeting Wednesday, Samson recused himself and left the meeting meeting without taking questions from the media.
When Christie took office in January 2009, Wolff & Samson's billings from government contracts took off.
The billings went from $2 million in 2008 to nearly $5 million in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
Samson, as well as other Port Authority officials, received subpoenas from the New Jersey Legislature's investigative committee seeking records related to the lane-closure controversy.
Fishman also is looking into claims from Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, N.J., of state officials tying the award of Hurricane Sandy relief money to the approval of a long-stalled high-rise development project proposed by the Rockefeller Group, which at the time was a client of Wolff & Samson.
Christie said last month he stands "strongly, firmly" behind Samson.
The two have been friends since 2002 when Christie became U.S. attorney and Samson was state attorney general. Samson was counsel to Christie's 2009 campaign and chairman of the transition team that helped Christie assemble his government.