New Jersey's attorney general has started a review of the consulting firm that was paid more than $500,000 to help prepare the state's two unsuccessful applications for $400 million in federal Race to the Top educational grants.

"We have been looking into this matter for several days now," Lee Moore, spokesman for Attorney General Paula Dow, said Wednesday. "We have been examining the issues and analyzing the agreement with the consultant, Wireless Generation."

A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Wireless defended the firm, which she said was respected in its field and had served more than 200,000 educators and three million students.

"Wireless Generation stands by its work in support of New Jersey's Race to the Top application," Andrea Reibel said in an e-mail Wednesday. "The company looks forward to providing more information at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum."

The consultant is part of the controversy over a mistake in the state's most recent application that contributed to New Jersey's losing its bid for the federal grant by three points and led to the firing of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler.

During an Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday into the failed grant bid, Daniel Gohl, a Newark school official who helped with the state's application, testified that he pointed out the problem to the consultant in August, days before the state went to Washington to make its case for the aid. However, Gohl said, the consultant told him that it was too late because the application could not be changed after the June 1 submission deadline.

In the Race to the Top application, states were asked to provide education funding information for fiscal years 2008 and 2009. According to state education officials' testimony Tuesday, New Jersey's application had contained that information, but it was removed and state education aid information for fiscal year 2011, which was not requested, was put in its place.

When Schundler and his team members met with Race to the Top judges on Aug. 11, they were asked to find the 2008 and 2009 information in their grant submission but could not, because it wasn't there.

Later, Gov. Christie said Schundler tried to provide the information during the presentation, and went on to blast the Obama administration as having failed to accept it. A videotape, however, showed Schundler did not provide the information.

Schundler issued a statement that he had told Christie that he did not try to provide the data because it would not have been accepted. Christie accused Schundler of misleading him; Schundler said his old boss was defaming him.

A Wireless employee reportedly found a draft of the application with handwritten notes, attributed to Schundler, deleting the required financial data and replacing it with the information that was not requested.

At Tuesday's hearing, which produced as many questions as answers, the notes were not definitely identified as Schundler's. Education officials testified that Schundler was believed to have made the changes, which Wireless would have reviewed.

Schundler, representatives of Wireless, and key Christie officials all declined to testify.

But Tuesday night, the former commissioner, who has taken responsibility for "my editing error," issued an e-mail saying that he had finally seen the notes and that they were in his handwriting.

Attempting to explain the change, he appeared to indicate he provided the information without reviewing the question. In the e-mail, he wrote that the question was not on the page, so "I must not have known that the question solicits FY08 and FY09 data."

"I should not have assumed anything, and Wireless, our consultant, should have caught the error," he wrote.

After Tuesday's hearing, legislators also were demanding more information about Wireless and its service to the state.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex), in a statement, complained of many unanswered questions, "including what role the high-paid consultant played."

According to state education spokesman Alan Guenther, Wireless was paid $335,000 for its work on the first-round Race to the Top application and $179,750 for the second. He said the company is owed $9,500.

After the first application, which was interrupted during the transition between gubernatorial administrations, New Jersey did not make it onto the list of finalists. In the most recent round, there were 10 grant winners. New Jersey came in 11th.

In a letter sent after the hearing, four Republican Appropriations Committee members, including Assemblywoman Dawn Marie Addiego (R., Burlington), urged the attorney general to investigate whether Wireless fulfilled its contractual duties. Those included "responsibility for technical accuracy for New Jersey's application," along with planning, communication, writing, and advisory assistance, the committee members said.

The state's failure to provide the requested financial information cost it 4.8 points. It lost more points on factors such as deficits in its data collection systems and lack of teacher union support. That support was withdrawn after Christie nixed compromises with union leaders on the application. Out of 500 points, New Jersey's final score was 437.8.