New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie‘s George Washington Bridge scandal was all the rage last week.

Missed it? Click here and here to bring yourself up to speed …

This week Christie is staring down another major scandal … allegations that he used federal relief money earmarked for victims of Superstorm Sandy on tourism television commercials starring him and his family.

Specifically, federal investigators at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are probing the use of $25 million in relief money after New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone raised questions about the spending.  And according to CNN – the network which broke the story – the agency “concluded that there was enough evidence to launch a full-scale investigation into the state’s use of federal funds.”

From CNN:

Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder. The winning $4.7 million bid featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies.

Well, well …

“This was money that could have directly been used for Sandy recovery,” Pallone told CNN. “And, as you know, many of my constituents still haven’t gotten the money that is owed them to rebuild their homes or raise their homes or to help.”

But Christie – whose administration said the ads provided “value” to New Jersey taxpayers – got a big chunk of government-subsidized television time that helped propel him to a decisive reelection victory.

(RELATED: “Disaster Relief: More Big Government Boondoggling“)

The leading “establishment Republican” candidate heading into the 2016 election cycle, Christie has built his political brand as a no-nonsense straight shooter.  That reputation is now on very shaky ground.

Not surprisingly, the GOP establishment has rushed to Christie’s defense …

In early voting South Carolina – where Christie is likely to spend a lot of time campaigning in the near future – the Republican apologist website took note of “a palatable hate” (we assume they meant to say “palpable” hate) against Christie, most of coming it “from Libertarians and Tea Partiers.”

And of course the ultimate GOP establishment apologist – S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – rushed to Christie’s defense saying his handling of the bridge scandal “showed leadership.”