New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) trips on a plane owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones apparently were just the tip of the iceberg.
According to a New York Times story published Monday evening, Christie, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has taken lavish trips on multiple private planes paid for by others. The Times reported these flights “put him in ethically questionable situations.” The paper described the flights as just one part of his fondness for luxury travel that made his staffers uncomfortable on at least one occasion.
The Times noted the governor and his family went on a “trade mission” to Israel in 2012 on a private plane paid for by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Christie reportedly had his “own bedroom” on the flight. At the time, Adelson was lobbying the state on gambling legislation.
At the end of the Christie family’s trip to Israel, the Times reported they spent a weekend in Jordan that was paid for by that country’s monarch, King Abdullah. It included two parties at the king’s home, a “champagne reception” in the desert, and rooms “in luxurious Kempinski hotels had cost about $US30,000.” A small group of Christie aides reportedly “fretted” that it might look bad if the details of the trip became public.
Christie also reportedly traveled on private planes during the 2012 presidential campaign when he was campaigning for the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. According to the Times, Christie made it clear “he would do out-of-state events only if he was given a private plane” — even during the GOP primary when Romney’s wife was flying commercial to events.
Along with the flights and weekend in Jordan, the Times reported that Christie has a long history of staying in luxurious hotels, including “five-star properties” on trade missions; he has taken family members on all of these trips. Last year, Christie gushed to one of the paper’s reporters about having the opportunity to travel internationally with his family.
“I relish these experiences and exposures, especially for my kids,” Christie said. “I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can.”
Before becoming governor, Christie also apparently had a fondness for high-end hotels as the US attorney for New Jersey. The Times noted a Department of Justice report after he left that position found “that he was the prosecutor who most often exceeded the charges allowed for hotel stays in different cities, without properly searching for a cheaper alternative.” According to the report, Christie also regularly used expensive private car services rather than taxis.
There are several ways Christie could have caused ethical issues by allowing wealthy benefactors to pay for his travel expenses.
Christie’s trips on Jones’ plane included seats in a luxury suite at Cowboy games. In total, this may have cost Jones tens of thousands of dollars. This led New Jersey Democrats to consider launching an ethics investigation after the Wall Street Journal pointed out Jones was doing business with the state. He was a partial investor in a group that won a contract to operate the observatory at the new One World Trade Center building in New York City. The contract was given out by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a bi-state organisation run by the governors of the two states.
When Christie’s trips on Jones’ plane became public last month, his office claimed it was not a violation of state law. Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman, described Jones as the governor’s personal friend and said Christie “may accept gifts, favours, services, gratuities, meals, lodging or travel expenses from relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds.”
Christie’s office also cited this rule when the Times asked about King Abdullah paying for the governor’s trip to Jordan.
Christie’s Israel trip came as Adelson was fighting online gambling legislation in New Jersey. According to the Times, Christie also flew on a plane owned by another opponent of the legislation. However, Christie ultimately signed the bill against the wishes of these benefactors. His office told the Times that Adelson never personally lobbied the governor, but the billionaire has said Christie told him the state legislature would have overrode any veto of the bill.
Along with potential issues surrounding the governor accepting gifts from people doing business with his state, the luxurious trips raise questions about his use of taxpayer funds. He has had aides accompany him on many of these trips and their travel costs were paid for by taxpayers. Christie’s taste for expensive travel as a US attorney was also paid for by taxpayers.
Christie is currently on a three-day trade mission to London. He hasn’t yet taken questions from reporters during his Tuesday events. According to journalists travelling with the governor, the first media availability scheduled for Tuesday was canceled. Christie is still scheduled to make remarks after a meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne on Tuesday morning.
During the trip to London, Christie and his team are staying at the Corinthia Hotel where rooms currently cost a minimum of about $US600 per night. The trip is being paid for by New Jersey taxpayers and reportedly could cost them an estimated $US40,000.
The governor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Business Insider about this story.
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