Fresh scandal: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Fresh scandal: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Photo: Reuters

Trenton, New Jersey: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces new accusations of exacting retribution for political reasons after a city's mayor accused his administration of linking millions of dollars in recovery money for hurricane Sandy to a politically connected project.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged on Saturday that Mr Christie's lieutenant governor and a top community development official told her recovery funds would flow to her city if she allowed a commercial development project to move forward.

Mr Christie is already embroiled in another scandal involving traffic jams apparently manufactured to settle a political score.

That scandal has tarnished Mr Christie's image as a straight-talking Republican capable of working across the partisan divide, and it may threaten his standing as a leading potential presidential candidate in 2016.

Ms Zimmer, a Democrat, said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno pulled her aside at an event in May and told her Sandy aid was tied to the project - a proposal from the New York City-based Rockefeller Group aimed at prime real estate in the densely populated city across the river from New York City.

Speaking on MSNBC, she produced journal entries that she said documented the conversations. The financial assistance, Ms Zimmer said, was held "hostage".

Despite being almost entirely submerged during the hurricane, Hoboken has received a small fraction of the recovery money it requested from the state, Ms Zimmer said. She had requested $100 million ($114 million) for Hoboken but the city has so far received $342,000, USA Todayreported.

Mr Christie's office denied the claims, calling her statements politically motivated. Spokesman Colin Reed said the administration has been helping Hoboken secure assistance since Sandy struck.

Mr Reed took the unusual step of denouncing MSNBC, on which Mr Christie is a frequent guest, as "a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him".

Attempting to cast doubt on the new allegations of political payback, which have always been a part of American politics, Mr Christie's aides pointed to Ms Zimmer's history of praising Mr Christie, such as a tweet last year last year in which she wrote: "I am very glad that Gov. Christie has been our governor."

On MSNBC, Ms Zimmer hinted at the pressure many mayors felt not to speak out against the governor, saying, "This is probably the hardest thing I've ever done."

Soon after Ms Zimmer's interview aired, Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, the president of the New Jersey Senate and a key ally of Mr Christie's, issued an unexpected rebuke to the Governor's office.

Calling the latest allegations "extremely disturbing" and promising an investigation, Mr Sweeney said that Ms Zimmer's experience, combined with the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, "suggest a pattern of behaviour by the highest ranking members of this administration that is deeply offensive to the people of New Jersey".

Mr Christie himself was raising money on Saturday for fellow Republicans in Florida, but has shunned public appearances. The fundraisers were also closed to reporters.

Instead, the New Jersey governor was whisked into an event at the Country Club of Orlando and, later, a fundraiser at a Palm Beach home owned by the heir to a sugar fortune.

Inside, Mr Christie found what must pass, at this difficult moment, as an oasis for him: a group of Ferrari and Jaguar-driving Florida Republicans for whom traffic in New Jersey is a distant thought.

Getting into his Bentley after the fundraiser, one guest, Geoffrey Leigh, called the controversy over the lane closures "little flies on the wall, quite frankly".

AP, New York Times