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November 25, 2014

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Christie to field questions for 1st time in weeks

Updated Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 | 1:07 p.m.

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie on Monday prepared to take questions for the first time in more than three weeks as his campaign sought to exceed New Jersey's election spending cap to pay for lawyers dealing with subpoenas stemming from a political playback scandal.

Christie gave a nearly two-hour news conference Jan. 9, the day after emails were made public showing that at least one of his top aides had a role in a traffic-blocking scheme near the George Washington Bridge. Since then, he has made public appearances but not opened himself to questions, except to schoolchildren in Camden.

On Monday night, he was scheduled to appear on his "Ask the Governor" radio show on Townsquare Media, although it was not clear how much time would be given to questions on the scandal.

A special legislative investigative committee said Monday it had begun receiving documents it requested in response to 20 subpoenas it issued last month. It's trying to unravel how high up Christie's chain of command a lane closing order went in September and whether the operation was meant to punish a Democratic adversary.

In a request to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, Christie's campaign organization asked for permission to raise more money and to spend it on lawyers handling subpoenas issued by both legislative investigators and the U.S. attorney's office.

The campaign has already spent all but $13,000 of the more than the $12.2 million limit for Christie's re-election. Without more money, the campaign said it would not be able to answer the subpoenas.

Neither subpoena suggests the campaign "has engaged in wrongdoing," the campaign's lawyers said in their request.

A hearing before the election commission was set for Feb. 11.

Subpoenaed information was due to lawmakers Monday and federal prosecutors on Wednesday, but the campaign said it has requested extensions.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-chairman of the joint legislative panel leading the investigation, told The Associated Press that some deadline extensions were granted. The requests of others who were asked to produce documents on a rolling basis were also being considered.

He and the other leader of the inquiry, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, both Democrats, said that none of the responsive documents would be made public Monday.

Ahead of Christie's "Ask the Governor" appearance, his administration released its plan for using a coming installment of federal relief money for Superstorm Sandy — at least giving him something else to talk about.

Christie will get the opportunity to address conservative activists next month at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C. Officials with the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual event, confirmed that the governor had accepted an invitation to speak at CPAC in March.

The conference will include speeches from several Republicans weighing presidential campaigns in 2016, including Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Christie was not invited to speak last year.

Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, N.J.

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