Tag Archive: helicopter

Cory Booker’s Helicopter

Cory Booker made an appearance today in Willingboro, flying in from his home in Newark on a taxpayer-funded helicopter, landing on a field adjacent to the town’s senior center.

Of course, this is false. When Booker comes to South Jersey, or anywhere else in the state for that matter, I’ve always seen him come by car.

So why does Chris Christie use a taxpayer-funded State Police helicopter on the average of every three days, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer?

What did Chris Christie see from his helicopter September 11th? Anything?

From Brent Johnson’s reporting today at Star-Ledger, Christie bridge scandal: Panel looking into whether governor flew in helicopter over Fort Lee:

Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie’s office, confirmed today that the Republican governor did fly in a helicopter from New York City to Trenton on Sept. 11 of last year – the third day of the closures. But asked whether the aircraft passed over the bridge, Reed declined comment.

Despite full-throated non-denial denials from Gov. Christie, there are lingering questions of What did he know and when did he know it? Wildstein says he knew during, to which Christie responded by moving the goalpost and insisting he didn’t know before. Uh huh.

If all this is from a Wildstein tip, and the reason he says “evidence exists” that Christie knew during, is it enough to suggest that he connected what he saw below him with orders from his own Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly to Wildstein, of “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”?  We know Christie and Wildstein were together for at least part of September 11, 2013, during the lane closures, because WSJ dug up a picture of them together taken that day after Christie said he hadn’t encountered Wildstein “in a long time”. We know (also via WSJ) that Wildstein stood on the NJ side of the GWB on the first day Sept. 9th, watching the traffic chaos his order to Port Authority employees helped create. Was that the kind of thing an operative does to make sure his job is done as ordered? Did he show it off to Christie? We now know, via Christie’s office, that he choppered from NYC to Trenton on 9/11. Was Wildstein or somebody else up there with him? PA Deputy COS Bill Baroni? PA Chair David Samson? Both were with Christie and Wildstein in NYC.

Colin Reed, Christie’s new mouthpiece now that Michael Drewniak seems to be  in some undisclosed location doesn’t say Christie didn’t fly over the bridge. Or that he doesn’t know. He declines comment. Will that continue to be their answer?  

Bridgegate probe to check Christie copter rides

Update: willlivingston wrote about this, too – and raises an excellent question about a leak and whether this may be Wildstein’s “evidence exists”. Read him.

In a few minutes, at 2pm, the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation (NJ SCI) will meet in Trenton. Today, the NY Post is reporting that the SCI plans to look at the records of that state police chopper Gov. Christie likes to use, to see if he flew near Fort Lee during the time local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed.

If that’s true, it’s an amazing coda to an issue that absorbed us two years ago, the way Christie commandeered the state’s  $12.5 million state police helicopter – a 55-foot Homeland Security resource designed for emergencies and to transport critically injured people – for political and family reasons.

So, did Christie take a joy ride to check on his Port Authority minions’ work snarling traffic for the people of North Jersey? Did David Wildstein ride along? After all, right after Christie claimed to barely know who Wildstein is, a photo surfaced (via WSJ) of the two of them yukking it up on September 11th, 2013. During the 5-day lane closures, and on a day when more sensible people realize the busiest bridge in the world might be at a terrorism risk on the 9/11 anniversary. Requiring, you know, more care and safety, and less impeding of first responders, just in case somebody wants to do harm.

Whoever got the idea to check the chopper records for this is absolutely effing brilliant. And it tells me, if the story’s true, that good and intelligent due diligence is going on down there.

Christie flights triple since Coptergate

helicopterUPDATE: Ledger now featuring this story along with a fresh quote from Christie: “We’ve only used it for business purposes. When I have to use it for political purposes, we make sure we pay it back.”

(Huh? Why does he ever have to use state resources to further his own political position? And why is he allowed to borrow against state resources for political purposes?)

Bloomberg/Business Week put some numbers to Chris Christie’s routine commandeering of the $12.5 million state police helicopter this morning. Ordinarily, we might trust a governor to make his own decisions about how to motor around. But this is New Jersey. We’ve had a governor who nearly killed himself speeding without a seat belt. Now we have one who squires around in a chopper, frequently using that 55-foot Homeland Security resource – designed for emergencies and to transport critically injured people – for political or family events. And that’s something the public should nose into, particularly when the governor in question styles himself fiscally responsible, and tells other public workers to tighten their belts and seems to think his constituents laze around waiting for government cheese (which offends us and Tom Moran, too.

Over at Bloomberg, they requested documents, and pulled out the calculators. Whole Christie Airborne for WrestleMania as Helicopter Flights Triple, is worth reading. But I’ll summarize:

Christie choppers to announce WrestleMania (Feb. 16):

  • 36 minutes

  • Cost: about $1,500

  • Time saved: about 36 minutes

  • Other Christie copter trips same week: to NYC for speech to pro-Israel group, Super Bowl rally for NY Giants, Caldwell “Town Hall” where he urged towns to cut costs.

    “Christie, 49, a first-term Republican who has slashed lawmakers’ spending requests and criticized officials who abuse taxpayer-funded perks, has more than tripled his use of state helicopters since June, when Democrats chided him for using the aircraft to get to political and personal events.”                  –Bloomberg

    Christie use of state chopper over 9 months:

  • 64 trips total (reported) = about 1 every 4 days

  • 5 stops to Mendham home or vacation house (each, 50 mi from State House)

  • Crew has to fly anyway. But chopper operating cost = $2,500/hr

  • Half the flights: bill signings, announcements, swearing-in events, speeches, “Jersey Comeback” events. Trips for Hurricane Irene = 3. NYC trips for interviews, receptions, meetings = 9. Trips to comfort family of soldier killed in Afghanistan = 2 (same soldier, arrival of body, then funeral)

    Total cost of Christie state helicopter use since taking office: $217,000.

    Christie actions taken during this time:

  • Asked public workers to cede negotiated benefits to trim government

  • cut out $1B added by Dems in $29.7B budget for schools, police & tax credits for working poor

    What Christie did that makes people pay attention to the chopper

  • Flew it to his kid’s high school ballgame (riding 300 yards in a SUV (taxpayers) instead of the deluxe golf cart made available (free), then Princeton for Iowa GOP bigwigs.

    Below the fold Fun facts! GOP ponies up (not much, only after public outcry).

    Just another dad at a school baseball game…

  • QoTD: Choppers ‘n Food Stamps Edition

    Quote of the Day is today’s Tweet from Courier-Post columnist @Jeremy_Rosen:

    ICYMI @GovChristie took state chopper to his Camden appearance 2day… nothing wrong with that, but is he scared of city streets?

    Thwock. Thwock. Thwock. Gov. Chris Christie availed himself of the mammoth state helicopter down to Camden this morning for the 35-mile ride from Trenton. In Camden, a city with far fewer police to keep a watchful eye on the Guv, he announced the future expansion of what sounds like a good idea (unless it masks another privatization initiative) to shift drug offenders into rehab programs instead of prison.

    Christie did his press conference at Cathedral Kitchen, the largest emergency food provider in Camden; feeding since 1976 “the homeless, the jobless, those with disabilities or addiction problems, the working poor,” from “infants to the elderly”.

    It’s great to see Christie draw attention to Cathedral Kitchen’s work. But seriously, did Christie’s cocksure press operation give any thought at all to how arrogant it looks for the governor to chopper in – at great public expense – to a place where hungry people come to be fed, on the day after we learned there are twice as many New Jerseyans are relying on food stamps than 4 years ago?

    Thwock. Thwock. Thwock. Guess nobody thought of that.  

    Flying Jersey Boss One

    It’s a fact of life. Wealthy and powerful people have perks that the other 99% don’t have. That’s fine. I would rather see them spend their “hard-earned” money locally and employ Americans than buy a villa on the Riviera. But especially now, with the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”, those more fortunate people should be aware of how their extravagant spending is perceived.

    Case in point: Much has been written about Governor Christie’s use of a taxpayer-funded State Police helicopter to attend his son’s baseball game. While the governor eventually paid back the incremental operating cost of that ride, the incident emphasized how out of touch he is with the realities facing his constituents.

    Now the governor’s consigliere, George E. Norcross III, is emulating the state’s chief executive with a helicopter of his own.

    Christie takes copter to beach house while proposing to limit beach access for rest of us

    Why, exactly, would Chris Christie try to hide his trips to the state’s beach house for the Governor in disclosing his copter trips?

    Could it be that the hypocrisy of taking the copter to the shore while simultaneously trying to restrict access to the shore for the rest of us?

    In Chris Christie’s beach access world, he gets to take a copter to the shore for the Governor’s exclusive beach house, on our dime. Similarly, people in places like Sea Bright and Mantoloking get us to pay for their beach replenishment projects – and then get to block us from coming to their beaches.

    Christie’s proposed beach access rules would allow towns to establish their own plans for access largely free of state standards. I’m sure that a town like Mantoloking would be happy for the opportunity to kick out the riff-raff (i.e. middle class).

    The common theme: we pay for the wealthy to have private access to the beach that belongs to all of us. All while they try to hide the ball from us about how we’re paying for it.

    I spent a nice evening last weekend on exclusive North Beach on LBI, which is a really nice place. I hope that I’ll still be able to go there next summer.

    The $25-from-every-New-Jerseyan-for-Xanadu bill and what else to watch for this week

    Are you ready to give $25 from your pocket to Xanadu ($100 for a family of four)?

    That is one of several important questions to be decided this week in Trenton, each of which we’d be seriously fixated on if not for the undoubtedly even more important anti-union armageddon currently unfolding. Still, these things are worth keeping an eye on because they all have a huge impact. Here are the top five, in no particular order:

    1. Will thousands of working families be kicked off of Medicaid? Gov. Christie (R-Rove) has decreed that working families earning more than $6,000 a year should be dropped from Medicaid. Thus creating new incentives to go from work to welfare. Will the Democrats stand up and try to block this change (not clear from the reporting exactly how much power the Legislature has, but at the least they could pass a resolution telling the Obama Administration to reject the waivers needed)?

    2. Will we have to pay $25 each to bail out Xanadu? Sens. Ray Lesniak (D-Progressive Social Causes and Crony Capitalism) and Kevin O’Toole (R-Tool) have introduced a bill to expand the ability of the Christie Administration to give away our money to large developers to include the Meadowlands. If you have driven the Turnpike recently, you may be aware that the Meadowlands includes a large eyesore called Xanadu which has been a total failure. Apparently the solution to this problem is for everyone in the state to pay $25 (that is $200 million divided by the 8 million people in NJ) to a large Canadian developer in order to get the mall ready for opening. I have two questions: could those of us below I-195 at least have the option of giving the money to a more local mall that is not 100 miles away, or perhaps have it go to the casinos and at least get $25 in chips back? And if this expert is right that even with $200 million of our tax money the project only has a 50-50 chance of success (after all four prior owners have failed), do we get double our money back if it fails again? Seriously, is this really something that the Democrats are going to support instead of using to bash Christie?

    3. Does the Open Public Records Act still exist? First Gov. Christie refuses to let us know who is on the helicopter with him. Then he claims executive privilege for e-mails with Roger Ailes. Did OPRA get repealed while we weren’t looking? And is anyone going to hold him accountable?

    4. Women’s health: what happens next? Planned Parenthood, our own Sen. Weinberg (D – Actually a D), and many others have been running probably the best progressive campaign of the year against Christie’s deeply unpopular cuts in women’s health. What happens next? Do the Dems take it up a notch? Like hold Xanadu, which costs over 20 times as much, hostage? Now, you may say: those are the kind of techniques that Republicans use, not Democrats. Which brings us to the next and final point…

    5. Will the Democrats reverse all of their progress in making Chris Christie unpopular? For a while, Senate President Sweeney (D-Sorry About that Marriage Thing) and Speaker Oliver (D-What Happened to that Awesome State Convention Speech?) were on a roll – and Christie was having bad week after bad week – jobs numbers, helicopters, women’s health – and looked more arrogant than strong. Now, Christie is going to have a new round of bragging rights from overcoming the unions’ power. Christie this week looks more strong than arrogant. Are there any other tricks up leadership’s sleeve to help boost Christie’s sagging poll numbers?

    It is going to be an interesting week with a lot at stake for our state’s future. And please post additions to this list if I missed something.