Today, a new era of accountability and transparency is here.
Gov. Chris Christie, Inaugural Address 1/19/10
So, that’s a lot of bull. And so we have the events of today:
10:37am: David Sirota posts a piece raising ethics questions in Chris Christie, who as governor has forked over huge subsidies to the NFL, getting luxury seating with his family in the Dallas Cowboys owner’s box
12:15pm: American Bridge files an OPRA request looking for travel, lodging and security expenses for that trip.
2:51pm: Christie’s office comes across with some of that info – that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones flew Christie and fam on a private plane and picked up the ticket costs (taxpayers on the hook for the security). Reported by Matt Arco.
That doesn’t really settle everything, does it?
In explaining why he’s allowed to accept Jones’ largesse, why does Christie’s office cite Executive Order 77 adopted under McGreevey, that holds the Gov “may accept gifts, favors, services, gratuities, meals, lodging or travel expenses from relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds”? There appears to be a higher standard, more applicable to Christie’s relationship with Jones, and to the NFL. NJ’s ethics rules prohibit government officials from accepting any gifts related to their “official duties.” Plain Language Guide to to New Jersey’s Executive Branch Ethics Standards appears pretty clear, defining a restricted gift as “admission to an event for which a member of the general public would be charged.”
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is no mere “personal friend” picking up the Christie tab with “personal funds”. There’s a relationship of influence here. State of New Jersey funds have been spent on the NFL. The official business we’ve done with them requires our governor to maintain appropriate distance. (And, you know, uh, maybe not this).
Christie as NJ governor has had a big impact on the NFL, generating profits for the League (and for Jones). That Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium last year? Christie had no trouble digging up $18 million to subsidize that (right after cutting state employees’ pensions and slashing education funding), and throwing in property tax breaks benefitting NFL and other incentives. And the gravy train might not even stop there; Sirota points out Christie wants the Super Bowl back. And a friendly relationship with a potential White House contender can be useful when you’re trying to protect your League’s cushy anti-trust and tax-exempt situations.
So when high-cost favors and gifts are exchanged between guys like Christie and Jerry Jones, it’s not like Christie packed up the kids and goes tailgating with an old friend from Boy Scouts or a buddy from the gym.
Why for this governor is the progression of events always a grudging release of information only after questions are raised about his doings?
None of this new; the scale’s just ramped up with his profile on the national scene. Christie’s questionable spending pre-dates his time as governor, and so does his lousy attitude if anyone dares to ask him about it. Cloaking the workings of his office in opacity, and making news organizations and others have to pull information out of his office in bits and pieces is a tired routine, and it’s getting old.
Do we need to remind this governor – again – that in his rush to be POTUS, he still has some responsibilities to New Jersey? Maybe he figures he’s played us out and it doesn’t matter.