NJ flubbed federal rules with $25M marketing contract: HUD

But ads with Gov. Chris Christie during re-election campaign broke no campaign finance laws
September 04, 2014 02:00PM

UPDATED, 3:56 p.m., September 4: The Garden State managed to steer clear of major errors in its handling of post-Superstorm Sandy ads promoting the shore and featuring Governor Chris Christie, the federal government found. But the state didn’t make the grade with its procurement of a marketing contract worth up to $25 million, an audit by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general found.

The state failed to make independent cost estimates, and awarded the contract to MWW Group, a firm that did not provide time sheets as required by the federal government, the report found.

A spokesperson for MWW told The Real Deal that the time sheet issue stemmed from “a matter of format, not substance.” The firm uses an electronic to keep records, and the OIG wanted hard copies of time sheets signed by individual employees and to see “all the activities for which the employee was compensated.” To certify accuracy, MWW printed hard copies of each report and had employees sign these copies, a spokesperson told TRD via email.

MWW’s selection also ruffled New Jersey feathers because competitors said the firm proposed a higher cost than other bidders and received the contract partially because it wanted to feature Christie and his family in its “Stronger than the Storm” ads. According to critics, the move amounted to taxpayer-funded campaign ads for Christie.

The HUD investigative office, however, found that no election finance laws were violated, nor was the content problematic. Instead, the agency pointed to the state government’s lack of awareness of some federal rules surrounding the contract, which led to the aforementioned procurement errors. [AP]Julie Strickland