New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is far more admired by national Republicans wanting a tough guy to yell at liberals than by his own constituents in his state. And a new report goes a long way to explaining why. Because Christie is the latest in a long line of conservative liars who will tailor their view of the facts to ideolgy. Christie cancelled a tunnel project across the Hudson River in 2010, a decision which made him very popular in conservative circles, because they are a sadistic sort that celebrates the stalling of progress and feasts on human misery. It turns out that he had to twist facts to justify this decision.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent Congressional investigators.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.

I would say that pretending the costs to the state were five TIMES higher than reality constitutes more than a “misstatement.” It’s an outright lie. Christie didn’t want to pay for the tunnel project. He wanted to use the money for corporate tax breaks or whatever else. And he wanted to avoid an increase in the gas tax to pay for the project. So he just stretched the truth about it, maximizing the costs and de-emphasizing the benefits.

I enjoy how the governor’s spokesman added in a bunch of what he claims are related costs that would get the state’s share of funding to 65%, which is importantly not the 70% claimed at the time. So the share of funding is going down, and in 4 years, Christie’s campaign for President will show a bunch of facts and figures proving that New Jersey would have had to pick up 30% of the costs.

The impact on transportation, productivity and the economy in the Northeast Corridor cannot be overstated. Congestion will grow along that New Jersey/New York City commute in the coming years, they will ripple out to other train lines across the Northeast, and it will have an undeniable economic impact. When a more enlightened governor tries to restart the project in a generation, the costs will be immeasurably higher.

Good for Frank Lautenberg for requesting this GAO study, which documents one man’s hubris and how it demonstrably hurt the country.

David Dayen

David Dayen