One month after being sworn in as New Jersey governor in 2010, Chris Christie, proclaiming a fiscal "state of emergency," exhorted New Jerseyans that it was time to tighten the state's belt. "Like any family, and like forty two other states with constitutionally required balanced budgets, we must live within our means," Christie declared.
But the potential Republican presidential contender isn't so keen on applying that same principle to himself, as the New York Times' Kate Zernike and Michael Barbaro lay bare today. The governor has a particular fondness for luxurious hotel suites and private plane trips paid for at others' expense, Zernike and Barbaro report, writing that Christie's acceptance of such gifts "has put him in ethically questionable situations."
Christie makes no bones about his tendency to freeload, having told the Times last year, “I relish these experiences and exposures, especially for my kids. I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can.”
Here's what squeezing the juice out has entailed: After Christie and his family traveled to Israel on a private flight paid for by GOP megadonor and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in 2012 -- a trip billed as a "trade mission" -- the Christies proceeded on to Jordan, where King Abdullah treated them to two parties at his private residence, a desert champagne reception, and Kempinski hotel rooms costing approximately $30,000. According to the Times, Christie aides worried "what would happen if that became public."
At the time of the Adelson-financed trip, the billionaire was lobbying against a New Jersey measure that would have legalized online gambling, the Times notes. Though Christie's administration insists the governor wasn't lobbied by Adelson on the issue, the governor subsequently vetoed the measure, raising questions about the link between personal favors and Christie's political deeds. Christie's trips to Dallas Cowboys games on owner Jerry Jones' plane highlight similar concerns; the International Business Times has exposed how Christie pushed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to award a contract to a firm partly owned by Jones.
Christie's junkets haven't only been paid for by wealthy pals; taxpayers have also picked up the tab for Christie's travels, including his trip to the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans. Airfare for the trip, which included Christie, his wife, and two aides, was $8,146, while hotel bills ran to $3,371 for three nights.
The Times' report comes two weeks after Christie's office refused to release nearly $800,000 in credit card records stemming from the governor's travel with his security detail. The administration's bid to keep those records hidden fits a pattern of secrecy. Zernike and Barbaro note that Christie's Super Bowl expenses came to light only after a judge ordered them released in a lawsuit filed by a New Jersey newspaper.
Read the Times' full report here.