Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bridget Kelly paying the price for joining a cult, the NJ Republican Party

The political field is very cult-like--this brain-washed woman is still devotedly loyal to Christie, even after he has viciously thrown her under the bus to save his own skin. After being elevated in status within the "big boys" realm, she became as tough, ruthless and vindictive as the "boys." Power went to her head, just as it has to Christie.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. --Lord Acton

Aide Fired by Christie Is Called Loyal Team Player, Not Rogue Operative

Bridget Anne Kelly was fired for her role in the retaliatory lane closings at the George Washington Bridge. North Jersey Media Group, via, Reuters

Bridget Anne Kelly is devastated that Gov. Chris Christie denounced her as stupid and a liar — but she also is distraught over how much her actions have damaged him politically.

Unheard-of a week ago, now a caricature of a political attack dog, Ms. Kelly, the deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie who was fired for her role in the retaliatory closings of lanes to the George Washington Bridge, has described her ouster and vilification as surreal, like an “out-of-body experience,” according to her close friends.

The experience has been so traumatic, they said, that Ms. Kelly fled her home in Bergen County, N.J., leaving behind her four children, as reporters continued staking out the residence and that of her parents. And with New Jersey lawmakers expected to issue more subpoenas this week, the next time Ms. Kelly appears in public could well be under oath.

That, in a bubble, is the unforgiving world that Ms. Kelly, 41, inhabits a week after the release of correspondence among Christie administration officials showing the behind-the-scenes machinations over the September lane closings, a scandal that has blossomed into the gravest crisis of the governor’s political career.

In the absence of an argument to the contrary from Ms. Kelly, her pungent eight-word email to an official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — has been treated as the proverbial smoking gun.

But friends, Trenton operatives and people who have recently been in touch with Ms. Kelly said that the portrait of her that had emerged — as a vengeful rogue operative — did not square with the woman they knew. And while they were careful not to discuss with her what happened, let alone ask why, they said that her actions were highly uncharacteristic for someone who had always been a loyal soldier, but never a rule-breaker.

“The person I worked with through the years is not the person you see in the press these days,” said Jeff Tittel, a longtime environmental advocate.

At first glance, nothing about Ms. Kelly’s life — not her strict Catholic upbringing; her close-knit extended family; her decision to send her children to the same Catholic schools she attended in her hometown, Ramsey; or her fierce loyalty to her political mentors — would suggest anything but a dutiful, behind-the-scenes role player.

“She follows the chain of command,” said a friend who, like nearly everyone contacted for this story, insisted on anonymity to avoid being caught up in the continuing investigations. “She’s not a cowboy.”

Yet friends said that Ms. Kelly, known as B.K., possessed grit and a desire to prove people wrong. She was seriously injured when hit by a car while in college, at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., and was not expected to walk again. But she recovered, and eventually began running 5K races.

A few months ago, she finished a half-marathon, in what Ms. Kelly, whose faith remains deeply important to her, described as a redemption.

“She’s a very determined person,” a friend said.

Republican politics have long been in Ms. Kelly’s blood. She joined the staff of Assemblyman David C. Russo, a moderate legislator, not long after college, and rose to become his chief of staff in 2002. Her mother also works for Mr. Russo. Her father is the director of Bergen County’s Division of Veterans Services. But it was Mr. Russo’s unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2002 against two conservative primary opponents, Scott Garrett and State Senator Gerald Cardinale, that frustrated, and may have hardened, Ms. Kelly politically.

After she worked to line up support for Mr. Russo in Bergen and Passaic Counties, the race took an unexpected turn when Mr. Cardinale, who had pledged to drop out of the race, stayed in. Mr. Cardinale siphoned off some of Mr. Russo’s support, and Mr. Garrett prevailed.

“She thought it was unfair,” a friend said. “She really resented people who got a shortcut.”

In 2009, Ms. Kelly volunteered to help run Mr. Christie’s phone-bank effort in Bergen. Her efforts attracted the attention of Bill Stepien, Mr. Christie’s campaign manager, and she was chosen to serve as director of legislative relations in the State House, where she worked closely with lawmakers and their staffs.

She later served under Mr. Stepien, who became a deputy chief of staff, as Mr. Christie’s director of intergovernmental and legislative affairs. In the job, officials said, she was the caretaker of the governor’s relationships with other elected officials, community groups and business associations.

It was her task, for example, to decide whom to invite to President Obama’s events on the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy and which legislators should be given tickets to the governor’s box for sought-after sporting events.

But the job — with a 90-minute commute each way — apparently took a toll on her personal life. With Mr. Russo as her lawyer, as court records indicate, she divorced her husband, Joseph Kelly, a golf pro in Mendham, in Morris County. (Among the Mendham residents who had taken golf lessons from Mr. Kelly were Mr. Christie’s wife, children and brother, friends said.)

Several Trenton political operatives said that Ms. Kelly, having paid her dues, became more brusque after being elevated to Mr. Christie’s inner circle. She stopped mingling with lobbyists and other staff members, and, they suggested, she seemed to relish teaming up with Mr. Stepien in administering political payback.

“A lot of these guys lose perspective on reality,” a Republican official said. “I think that’s what happened here.”

Even now, after Mr. Christie’s denunciation of her, friends of Ms. Kelly said she sounded as devoted to him as ever.

“Her unrequited loyalty is not wavering,” a friend said.