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Christie aides' legal costs in Bridgegate sock taxpayers, motorists with $8.5M tab

TRENTON -- The law firm defending Gov. Chris Christie's administration in the George Washington Bridge scandal has billed $6.5 million for its work, new public records show.

Along with other government legal costs related to the shutdown of bridge access lanes by Christie's top aides, total expenditures now top $8.5 million -- to be paid by taxpayers and by those who pay tolls on bridges and tunnels operated by the Port Authority.

Invoices and summaries released Friday by the state attorney general's office for 11 law firms included $3.26 million in new bills from the Gibson Dunn law firm for March and April. The firm previously submitted bills for $3.3 million for January and February.

Gibson Dunn conducted an internal investigation for the administration, absolving the Republican governor of wrongdoing, and has also worked on responses to subpoenas from federal and legislative investigations.

The scandal costs are growing at a time when polls show skepticism about Christie's version of what happened as well as public fatigue from the legislative probe launched in January.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll found that half of New Jersey voters don't believe Christie's explanation on the scandal but are part of a majority willing to write off the entire episode as "politics as usual." Just 23 percent say they fully believe Christie's version of what he knew and when he knew it. But 60 percent think the ongoing legislative investigation is a waste of time.

Christie's fellow Republicans blame Democrats who control the investigating panel for prolonging the inquiry and driving up costs.

Other scandal legal costs include: $850,000 due to 10 law firms representing two dozen Christie staffers or former staffers. The attorney general's office has approved a $340-an-hour rate to the outside lawyers and $90-an-hour for paralegals representing individuals who have been subpoenaed.

The grand total at this point: $8.61 million through May, but also including a handful of June invoices.

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