Chicago is a town — and Illinois, a state — that understands corruption.
But for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, still dogged by a scandal over his administration's role in a political retribution scheme, the Windy City will be no safe haven when he visits Tuesday to raise money for the Republican Governors Association, which he chairs.
Christie will give a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago, followed by private meetings with donors during the afternoon and, later, a fundraising dinner. He'll draw an audience -- but, notably, not from the four Republican candidates for governor in Illinois, one of whom would be the beneficiary of the money Christie is hoping to attract.
“I think it’s probably significant,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., of the candidates’ absences, “and that if Christie wasn’t facing these questions they would go.”
And in Chicago especially, Kinzinger added with a laugh, he would have expected the tolerance for a political scandal to be higher.
“The thing (Christie) has been accused of is mild compared to what happens everyday in Chicago,” Kinzinger said. “For us, the shock value isn’t as great. All of our former governors are in jail.”
Christie’s controversy, however, is uniquely high-profile and durable. Since subpoenaed emails revealed his deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly worked with Port Authority officials to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, resulting in massive gridlock, subpoenas have widened to touch all corners of Christie’s political and gubernatorial offices. So, too, have the investigations multiplied: In addition to a New Jersey legislature inquiry into the incident, the U.S. Attorney has launched an investigation of its own.
The controversy has received enough attention to unnerve some Republicans outside of New Jersey.
When Christie traveled last week to Texas on behalf of the RGA, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, did not join him at events. Nor did former Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, who, like Christie, is weighing a bid for the presidency.
If personal support for Christie is showing signs of flagging, however, the RGA is highlighting the continued financial support for the RGA with Christie at the helm. The group brought in roughly $6 million in January, its best January ever, and Christie raised another $1.5 million during his trip to Texas.
And Christie’s RGA travel schedule is still robust. After Illinois, he will visit Massachusetts, Utah, Georgia, Connecticut and Michigan during the coming months.
But Democrats, looking to capitalize on Christie’s missteps, will be there. Already, in his recent trip to Texas and one to Florida, Democratic surrogates have shadowed Christie with dueling appearances; in Chicago on Tuesday, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, will anchor the counter-commentary.