Chris Christie is serving his second term as governor of New Jersey. He announced his candidacy for president in late June 2015 and has been regarded as an underdog for the GOP nomination.
Christie has made a name for himself as a conservative governor in a “blue” state with a bombastic and confrontational style. There are countless instances of the governor taking his critics to task in blunt and direct terms – which have made him a popular figure with many Republicans, while leading some to question his temperament.
Despite his aggressive style, as a conservative governor in a state dominated by Democrats, Christie has succeeded in pressing many policies favored by Republicans. To cite just a few accomplishments, there have been no general tax increases in New Jersey under Christie; the state has experienced private sector job growth during his tenure; and the number of state employees has declined. He passed major pension reform for state employees, although the success of those reforms remain in doubt.
Christie has also received praise for his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, although many Republicans were upset with him for his praise of President Barack Obama on the matter so close to the November 2012 election. Christie has also been criticized for favoring incentives and subsidies for targeted industries and companies, which many regard as corporate welfare.
Christie has seen some of his inner circle collapse as the result of various scandals. The “Bridgegate” scandal has seen him sever ties with his campaign manager, among many others. Bill Palatucci, Christie’s former law partner, is considered particularly close to the governor. He is an expert fundraiser and a well-regarded attorney.
Christie has a national profile, prodigious fundraising skills, and a great story to tell regarding being able to persuade Democratic and independent voters to support him. His base of support is as likely to be driven by his personality as it is his record and views on the issues, which could cause him problems if he makes any serious miscues. Just as it’s easy to picture Christie dominating a debate, it’s also easy to see his confrontational and bombastic style turning many viewers off or leading him to make controversial remarks that lose him support.
Christie has focused his campaign efforts on New Hampshire, hoping to “break out” in that state similar to John McCain’s successful strategy in 2008. His fundraising has been mediocre but not abysmal, and following what most considered to be strong debate performances, he saw his poll numbers in New Hampshire rise in December and early January, when he was tied for third place in the Granite State. His numbers have since fallen, but he is still in contention for a strong finish in New Hampshire that could allow him to mount a credible campaign, although his lack of funds and limited organization in the states that follow New Hampshire would be a serious hindrance.
Chris Christie was born in Newark, N.J., to Sondra and Wilbur James Christie in 1962. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to Livingston, where Christie grew up. In high school, he played catcher for the baseball team and served as class president. He is Roman Catholic, and by all appearances he is reasonably devout.
His father was a Republican, but it was his Democratic mother who encouraged him to get involved in politics. In 1977, he volunteered for the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of Republican Tom Kean, of whom Christie had long been fond.
Christie graduated in 1984 from the University of Delaware with a degree in political science and attended law school at Seton Hall University, where he graduated with a J.D. in 1987. He joined the law firm of Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci, where he was named partner six years later. He remains a member of the American Bar Association and served as a member of the election law committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
Prior to receiving his law degree, Christie married Mary Pat Foster, with whom he now has two boys and two girls. An investment banker, Mary Pat would go on to work at Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost two-thirds of its work force to the September 11 attacks.
Christie’s first run for office came in 1993, when he forged a primary challenge to then-New Jersey Senate Majority Leader John H. Dorsey. His campaign ended when it was determined his petition to appear on the ballot was invalid.
The next year, Christie was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders for Morris County. The losing candidate, an incumbent, sued for defamation. The suit was settled out of court.
In 1996, Christie mounted another primary challenge, this time for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly. Christie lost again, and many attribute this challenge to his losing re-election to the freeholder board, as angry Republicans offered up a primary challenger of their own.
Christie returned to his law firm as a lobbyist. In the 2000 presidential election, Christie served as George W. Bush’s campaign lawyer for New Jersey. Upon his election, Bush appointed Christie the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. In that position, Christie made a point of taking on corruption. During his tenure, which lasted until 2008, he racked up an impressive number of public corruption convictions involving elected officials of both parties.
In 2009, Christie filed to run for the governor’s office. He defeated wealthy incumbent Jon Corzine (who had also served as a U.S. senator) with a 48.5 percent plurality of the vote.
He was handily re-elected in 2013.
Christie and his wife’s net worth is estimated at between $1.5 and $3.4 million.1
Christie’s family regularly attends Mass, and he and his wife have sent their children to Catholic school. Christie cites the role religion plays in his service.2 Christie was known for addressing corruption in what is often considered the most corrupt state in the union. He amassed 130 convictions of various public officials of both parties, all without a single acquittal.
Christie’s positions on key issues seem to shift to the political winds of the time. In the 1990s, Christie was a bold, moderate, pro-choice Republican. By 2010 he was a limited government social conservative. Early in his tenure as governor, Christie was a supporter of Common Core and brought the federal education standards into his state. As Common Core became increasingly unpopular among conservatives, he abandoned his support and announced New Jersey would develop its own standards3
His views on guns also shifted over time. He supported a ban on assault weapons in the early ’90s but now opposes similar measures. He has explained his change on the issue as being due to his experience as a U.S. attorney and discovering that too much attention was being focused on law-abiding gun owners and not enough on criminals.4
Christie is not above the occasional bout of crony capitalism. He funneled $200 million in state funds to subsidize the American Dream Meadowlands mall. The multibillion-dollar redevelopment project boasts support from a bevy of former Christie allies, including two former U.S. Attorneys, appointees, and former law firm colleagues.5,6
According to two anonymous sources, Christie was responsible for pulling Port Authority work from a law firm after a prominent Republican at the firm refused to endorse him during his election campaign.7 Christie’s office has denied the allegation.
By most accounts Christie does not seem to have been involved in instigating the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which senior members of his administration closed several lanes of a vital bridge at rush hour as punishment for the local mayor’s decision not to endorse him (the mayor was a Democrat). But this sort of petty corruption and abuse of power by people close to him does raise questions about the tone he sets and the leadership environment he creates.
Christie’s efforts to reform public sector pensions drew the ire of firefighters and police (and a lawsuit by same) while his education reform plans irked the teachers’ unions. He has shown a willingness to stand up to powerful interest groups on both sides of the aisle and seems to relish doing so.
Christie is a charismatic and confrontational speaker who is sought after because of his proclivity to speak his mind, including challenging members of his own party as well as members of the public who have questioned him. However, these efforts run him afoul of his fellow leaders as often as they help him. He has publicly distanced himself from tea party adherents, even though he rose to prominence championing many of their ideals.
In particular, his criticism of Rand Paul, in which he labeled libertarians as “dangerous” for their criticisms of the National Security Agency, was poorly received. It was also poorly timed, as revelations about the NSA’s various data collection practices were souring public opinion and had members of both parties clamoring for at least modest reforms. By challenging both the conservative and libertarian wings, he has left himself vulnerable to the criticism that he does not have a real niche in the Republican Party.8
Christie has not shied away from taking bold policy positions. In April 2015 he proposed reducing and even eliminating Social Security benefits and increasing Medicare premiums for higher-income beneficiaries, entitlement reforms that many conservatives have long favored but that few politicians have been willing to advocate because of the perceived political risk.9
Christie’s ability to win election in a “blue” state suggests strong level of political acumen and an ability to appeal across party lines, although his style of campaigning may be uniquely suited to New Jersey and other East Coast states. His approval ratings in New Jersey have declined recently,10 which could be problematic for his image as a popular governor in a “blue” state. But it is clear that he has gained a national profile and a great deal of admiration as a result of his leadership style. Christie was selected to be chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), a sign of confidence in his leadership skills by his colleagues. The RGA had an outstanding campaign season in 2014, bringing in more than $100 million and helping Republicans hold onto nearly every contested seat and add to their overall numbers, and some of the credit for that must go to Christie.
Christie was praised by many for his work after the Hurricane Sandy disaster. Although he roiled Republican Party faithful by embracing Obama (an image used in the president’s campaign ads), it was a display of bipartisanship and a willingness to put citizens before politics. Aside from his working with Obama in the wake of the hurricane, he has been broadly critical of the administration for impeding the free market.
Even as New Jersey’s economy has struggled, Christie has refused to raise taxes. This is in spite of the fact that the New Jersey state constitution requires a balanced budget. In addition, he signed legislation limiting annual property tax growth to 2 percent and proposed a 10 percent income tax cut.11
Leading up to the 2016 nomination process, Christie unveiled his own tax reform plan that would have only three rates (instead of the current six), with the highest rate at 28 percent and the lowest rate in the single digits. His plan calls for eliminating, reducing or modifying a number of tax deductions, credits and other provisions in order to be revenue-neutral, although the home mortgage deduction and charitable deduction would remain untouched.12 He also called for reducing the corporate rate to 25 percent.13
While his broader commitment to fiscal discipline seems firm, Christie has offered industry-specific tax breaks, incentives and subsidies. He has also caught on to the trick of masking certain taxes as an increase in “user fees.”14
For this reason, the Cato Institute awarded Christie a grade of B in 2014 in spite of his reform efforts. This seems in line with his tenure as county freeholder, during which he raised certain taxes, but saw the overall county tax rate decline under his watch.
Budget & Spending
In 2011, Christie signed legislation to address pension reform. The plan was to offset union concessions with state contributions. Christie cut the required payments by $2.5 billion for fiscal year 2015, a decision that was challenged in court but ultimately upheld.15 The cuts to pension plans were part of an effort to balance the state’s budget, but they also had the impact of increasing the unfunded liability of the state’s public pension.16
New Jersey’s governor has a line-item veto, and Christie has not been afraid to use it. His veto pen helped erase an $11 billion deficit, as he eliminated nearly $1 billion in spending added by the legislature. Christie canceled a major rail tunnel project during his first year in office after being told cost overruns would add at least $2.5 billion, and possibly up to $5.5 billion, over the original $8.7 billion price tag, all of which New Jersey would be responsible for paying.17
He recently stated that as president he would restart the tunnel project, this time ensuring that federal taxpayers as well as New York and New Jersey would be equally responsible for funding and cost overruns.18
Christie was extremely critical of Congress and the president during the 2013 debate over sequestration, largely over what he saw as a lack of leadership developing a solution.19 He offered similarly critical comments during the debt ceiling confrontation in 2011,20 and in both instances he said getting spending under control should be the focus of any deal.
He praised Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for coming to a compromise with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that increased federal spending in the short term in exchange for cuts a decade in the future, but said he wished the deal had included reform of the tax system and entitlement spending.21 He criticized a proposal for across-the-board spending cuts offered by another candidate, saying it represented a “meat ax” approach while he favored a “scalpel” in cutting federal spending.22
Speaking at a forum regarding education, Christie told one questioner, “Unions are the problem,” regarding education policy, and he has battled New Jersey’s teachers unions on numerous occasions. He has also praised Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reforms. He does not, however, seem to support right-to-work laws.
His first act as governor was to issue a 90-day moratorium on new regulations, and in early January 2016 he said his first executive order as president would be a 180-day freeze on new regulations.23
In releasing his economic agenda in May 2015, he said the next president needs to make sure regulations are pro-growth and “must be rational, cost-based and used only to implement actions that are explicitly authorized by statute.”24 Christie enacted regulations preventing car manufacturers from selling directly to the customer. Green car manufacturer Tesla was principally affected by the rule, as it sold cars directly through two dealerships. Sale of its cars was effectively banned in New Jersey as the result of the rule.25
Christie has been a vocal supporter of international free trade. He embarked on a trade mission to Mexico, in which he advocated for Mexico and Canada to join the United States in negotiations regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. He has led numerous trade missions, along with his inner circle, to Mexico and Canada and has made an effort to demonstrate leadership on this issue, even though he has not held a federal office.26
He has, however, said Obama should not be given fast-track negotiating authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying the president has not shown he is capable of negotiating well.27
Christie is firmly opposed to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and has advocated for free-market solutions to rising health care costs. To that end, he introduced a four-point plan in New Jersey, which would increase insurance options through competition while eliminating the tax on individual and small group plans. He vetoed legislation to create a state health care exchange but did back a plan to expand Medicaid in 2013.28 He also supports block-granting Medicaid funding, allowing states to innovate and design their own programs.29
Entitlement & Welfare Reform
Christie supports entitlement reforms, including means testing for Social Security and Medicare, and raising the Social Security retirement age.30 In April 2015 Christie proposed reducing Social Security benefits to retirees with income over $80,000 and eliminating benefits entirely for those earning more than $200,000 per year.31 He also called for raising the eligibility age for Medicare and asking higher-income retirees to pay more in premiums for health care as well.32
As governor he signed legislation increasing the state’s earned income tax credit from 20 percent of the federal credit to 30 percent.33
On immigration, Christie previously favored a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and in 2013, he signed legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges, universities and community colleges. His own legislation has been titled the Dream Act, though it has a more limited scope than its federal namesake.34 More recently he has backed off from granting citizenship, saying that was an “extreme” position.35 He said he supports a policy of “attrition through enforcement,” which would increase deportations with a focus on those who commit crimes in the U.S. but not entail large-scale deportation efforts.36
He supports the E-Verify system, which checks whether potential workers are in the U.S. legally, and he is in favor of fining employers who hire illegal aliens.37He has suggested that FedEx could be brought in to use their technology to ensure visa holders don’t overstay their visits,38 and expressed his opposition to “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with U.S. immigration law.39
Energy & Environment
Christie’s energy positions are mixed. He pledged to ban coal-fired power plants by 2021 as part of a more comprehensive plan to move to alternative energy resources. He has also authorized the expenditure of $100 million on tax credits for wind energy facilities. The credits are being dispersed through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, whose board includes key government staff, private sector companies and trade unions.40
During his trade mission trip to Mexico, Christie stated that he supports the Keystone XL pipeline and opposes heavy regulations on gas and oil. He also vetoed a ban on fracking in New Jersey, as well as a bill that would have banned the disposal of fracturing waste, which is seen by some as a backdoor ban on the practice.
On the other hand, he strongly opposes offshore drilling in New Jersey, though this owes more to his desire to protect tourist destinations than a broader concern with the practice of drilling.41 He favors allowing the export of crude oil.42
An active opponent of cap-and-trade, he backed out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program for Northeastern states to regulate greenhouse emissions. He also postponed the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s enforcement of certain water-quality management rules.43
Christie is a strong supporter of agricultural subsidies. As governor he signed legislation providing $96 million in grants for farmland preservation,44 and also supports continued subsides to ethanol. At a March 2015 event in Iowa he said he supports the Renewable Fuel Standard, a mandate requiring gasoline refiners to include ethanol in their fuels.45
Christie’s administration has handed out massive subsidies and incentives to favored businesses, including $250 million to Prudential for a new office headquarters in downtown Newark46 and $82 million in tax breaks to the Philadelphia 76ers, a pro basketball team, to build a practice facility in Camden, N.J.47 According to one recent news article, Christie has dramatically expanded the state’s tax preference program, awarding more than $2 billion in the past year.48
According to one recent news article, Christie has dramatically expanded the state’s tax preference program, awarding more than $2 billion in the past year.49
He has, however, been skeptical of tax credits for the film industry, suspending the program in his first year in office and vetoing bills that would have expanded the state’s film tax credit.50 He has declined to state a position on the Export-Import Bank.51
Banking & Finance
Ahead of the December 2015 meeting of the Federal Reserve, Christie said he believed the Fed should raise interest rates and accused it of “playing politics” by keeping the rate artificially low.52
Christie’s strongest statements on foreign affairs have been in response to the Obama administration’s opening of relations with Cuba, where he expressed his “profound disagreement” and demanded that as part of any improved relations, the U.S. seek the extradition of a convicted killer (of a New Jersey police officer) who escaped and fled to Cuba.53 He called on the agency that oversees New Jersey’s Newark airport to prevent any flights between there and Cuba until the fugitive is returned.54
He has criticized Obama’s policy on China, saying “”The fact that this president will not fly over these artificial islands in the South China Sea or sail our ships within 12 miles is a de facto acknowledgment that they have jurisdiction over something they don’t have jurisdiction over. I’d fly Air Force One over it.”55
His comments on Ukraine have been vague, telling an audience that Putin wouldn’t have “made the same judgment” about his resolve that the Russian president apparently made regarding Obama but failing to be more specific.
War on Terror
Christie supports a robust anti-terror policy and has singled out the Patriot Act for praise. He said that as a U.S. Attorney, he personally used the Patriot Act’s surveillance policies to help prosecute terrorists.56
After news broke about the NSA’s data collection policies and anti-terror measures, Christie called out libertarian-leaning leaders within his own party for favoring “esoteric” considerations over the widows and orphans of those lost in the September 11 attacks.57 He sharply criticized Democratic senators for releasing a report detailing U.S. interrogation of terrorists, saying it was a “one-sided and inaccurate attack on our intelligence services.”58 He is opposed to closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.59
He criticized Obama for trying to shift blame on his administration’s apparent surprise at the rise of ISIS,60 and has proposed a no-fly zone in Syria along with pledging to shoot down Russian planes that enter the no-fly zone.61 He has otherwise not given many specifics about how he would address the rise of ISIS and the fate of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
After initially saying that as president he would “sit down with our allies” to determine how many Syrian refugees the U.S. should admit, he shifted his position to say the U.S. shouldn’t accept any refugees because some may pose a danger to the U.S.62 Instead he indicated he would provide incentives, including money, for other nations to accept the refugees, with a focus on Middle Eastern nations.63
Christie has said that he would not have approved of the decision to invade Iraq if it were known at the time that there were no weapons of mass destruction.64
Military Preparedness & Budget
On military spending, Christie has said the sequester cuts need to be reversed.65
Christie has endorsed and spoken supportively of the idea of American exceptionalism, delivering a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library in 2011 in which he said the following:
“A lot is being said in this election season about American exceptionalism. Implicit in such statements is that we are different and, yes, better, in the sense that our democracy, our economy and our people have delivered. But for American exceptionalism to truly deliver hope and a sterling example to the rest of the world, it must be demonstrated, not just asserted. If it is demonstrated, it will be seen and appreciated and ultimately emulated by others. They will then be more likely to follow our example and our lead.
“At one time in our history, our greatness was a reflection of our country’s innovation, our determination, our ingenuity and the strength of our democratic institutions. When there was a crisis in the world, America found a way to come together to help our allies and fight our enemies. When there was a crisis at home, we put aside parochialism and put the greater public interest first. And in our system, we did it through strong presidential leadership. We did it through Reagan-like leadership.
“Unfortunately, through our own domestic political conduct of late, we have failed to live up to our own tradition of exceptionalism. Today, our role and ability to [effect] change has been diminished because of our own problems and our inability to effectively deal with them.”66
Judiciary & Crime
Christie has said he that if judges appointed by him had been on the Supreme Court for the King v. Burwell (Obamacare subsidies) and Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage) cases the outcomes would have been different.67 But in 2013 the two appointees of Christie then on the New Jersey Supreme Court joined a unanimous opinion declaring a right to same-sex marriage.68
He criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, asserting that he agrees “with the dissent that Chief Justice Roberts authored,” and that the issue of same-sex marriage is “something that should be decided by the people of each state and not imposed upon them by a group of lawyers sitting in black robes at the U.S. Supreme Court,” before adding that “those five lawyers get to impose it under our system” and that we must “support the law of the land.”69
Christie has spoken out against judicial activism and judges who, in his view, legislate from the bench.70 In 2009 he said he supported Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, saying she would not have been his choice but “[e]lections have consequences” and qualified nominees deserve to be confirmed.71
He has also been heavily criticized by many conservatives for his nominations to the New Jersey Supreme Court,72 leading the chief counsel of the conservative group Judicial Crisis Network to say “instead of nominating judges with a proven record of following the Constitution and traditional legal principles, and fighting for those nominees, he nominated liberals and cronies. There was not a shred of evidence that any one of them subscribed to the legal principles that Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito have been fighting for. As a consequence, the New Jersey Supreme Court remains strongly liberal.”73
Christie has fought with New Jersey Democrats over judicial nominees, including in 2010 when he declined to re-nominate a sitting justice to the New Jersey Supreme Court,74 ignoring a state tradition that since 1947 had kept the Supreme Court politically balanced between Republicans and Democrats with a 4-3 split.75
Christie has also voiced criticism of the war on drugs, saying it was “well intentioned” but hasn’t worked.76
He has also said that nonviolent drug offenders should be diverted into treatment instead of prison.77 He has vowed, however, that as president he would enforce federal laws on marijuana sale, use and possession, including in states that have legalized it such as Colorado and Washington.78
Christie’s environmental advocacy has seemingly run afoul of individual states’ rights. He filed a petition in 2011 with the Environmental Protection Agency to force a Pennsylvania power plant to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions and participated in a multistate lawsuit against an Ohio-based power company for coal-fired emissions. He did, however, veto legislation establishing a forestry stewardship program on the grounds it would have deferred authority to third-party states.79
Free Speech & Religious Liberty
While Christie has not directly addressed the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, he has critiqued the resulting campaign finance system, saying “what is corrupting in this potentially is we don’t know where the money is coming from.”80 He has stated that there should be no limit to campaign contributions but did support legislation to eliminate exemptions on contribution limits for county or municipal political committees.81
On religious liberty, he has said the county clerk in Kentucky refusing to issue marriage licenses over the same-sex marriage issue has “a different obligation than somebody who’s in the private sector,” and believes she should issue the licenses.82
Christie is a strong supporter of education reform. He believes in merit pay for teachers and supports vouchers and tax credits for parents who choose to send their children to private and parochial schools. As governor, he has overseen the expansion of charter schools in the state, and he has signed into law very limited school choice initiatives. 83,84
He also signed legislation reforming tenure, requiring teachers to work for four years (instead of three) before getting tenure, and also requiring them to get positive ratings for two of those three years.85 He has referred to teachers unions as “the single most destructive force in public education in America.”86
He was originally a supporter of the Common Core educational standards and has overseen their implementation in New Jersey. However, in response to criticisms of the program, he created a commission to study the efficacy of the new standards and how they are impacting student test scores,87 and in May 2015 he fully reversed himself and announced he would urge the New Jersey Department of Education to develop its own, higher standards.88
Christie has called for colleges and universities to disclose their expenses on tuition bills and focus their student aid on lower-income students.89
Christie has supported gun control measures in the past, such as the 1994 assault weapons ban passed by Congress90 and New Jersey’s prohibition on concealed carry of firearms.91 As governor he proposed banning the sale of large-caliber rifles but later vetoed legislation doing so because he said it went too far in also confiscating rifles from people who owned them prior to the ban.92 He has expressed support for New Jersey’s existing gun laws, considered among the strictest in the nation,93 although he recently seems to have reversed course and favors some loosening of his state’s current laws, such as allowing domestic violence victims to receive expedited permits to purchase a handgun.94
Christie has said his views on guns have shifted over time as a result of his time as a U.S. attorney, explaining, “What I learned in those seven years was that we were spending much too much time talking about gun laws against law-abiding citizens and not nearly enough time talking about enforcing the gun laws strongly against criminals.”95
He said in a statement that he believes the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own and possess firearms.96 Following a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., Christie said that “in theory, I don’t have a huge problem” with proposals to ban gun sales to individuals on the government’s no-fly list, although he also said efforts to pass such a law were “cynical” and a “distraction.”97
Christie is pro-life, although during his first run for office in the early 1990s he described himself as pro-choice.98 He supports allowing exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother, but otherwise supports making abortion illegal.99 As a gubernatorial candidate in 2009 he supported parental consent and waiting period laws,100 and in office he vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood at least five times.101
As governor Christie vetoed legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage in New Jersey,102 and although he disagreed with a later state lower court ruling granting same-sex partners the right to marry, he opted not to challenge it at the New Jersey State Supreme Court.103 He said he thought the matter should be decided by each state instead of the U.S. Supreme Court,104 and criticized the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue.105 He has not said whether he would support a constitutional amendment overturning the decision.106
Hints of scandal have abounded throughout Christie’s tenure as governor. Even his seemingly innocuous role as the honorary chairman of the Drumthwacket Foundation, which maintains the Governor’s Mansion, has not been without controversy. Prudential chair John Strangfeld chairs the board of the foundation while his wife serves as vice-chairwoman, and they have been aggressive fundraisers. Critics claim Christie rewarded their efforts with a $250 million tax incentive to move that company’s headquarters.107
Christie’s former law firm has been awarded numerous state contracts. The Port Authority (long a hotbed of New Jersey corruption) has awarded over $6 million in contracts to former Christie firm Dughi, Hewit & Domaleski alone. This after members of Christie’s administration urged Port Authority officials to find work for that firm. They did, and the work was awarded outside of the usual bidding process.108
Christie’s former law firm has been awarded numerous state contracts. The Port Authority (long a hotbed of New Jersey corruption) has awarded over $6 million in contracts to former Christie firm Dughi, Hewit & Domaleski alone. This was after members of Christie’s administration urged Port Authority officials to find work for that firm. They did, and the work was awarded outside of the usual bidding process.109
Perhaps a more potentially glaring example is the stream of large donations to Christie’s political organizations from firms selected to manage New Jersey’s state pension system. Given that pension reform is a hallmark of Christie’s efforts to clean up government, expect opponents in both the primary and general elections to make hay, even though a key figure in the potential scandal, private equity executive Robert Grady, is stepping away from his responsibilities.110
By far the most troubling scandal, however, is the so-called Bridgegate affair. Emails from Christie’s staff that were made public seemed to indicate traffic on the George Washington Bridge was purposely restricted for political reasons. While Christie maintains he had no knowledge of the affair, he quickly fired a top aide in response. Though no formal disciplinary action was taken against him, it is certain this will come back to haunt him. If nothing else, it is a quintessentially New Jersey story of corruption and political vendettas run amok behind a candidate who made a name for himself cleaning up New Jersey corruption.
A new scandal has cropped up with Christie’s appointee to the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, forcing the resignation of the CEO of United Airlines after it was revealed the company had apparently re-started a money-losing route that was more convenient to the Christie appointee’s vacation home in South Carolina.111 It is unlikely Christie had any knowledge of this, but at the least it is likely to be politically damaging to Christie.
While his handling of the Hurricane Sandy disaster sent his approval rating soaring, Republicans accused him of politically pandering in its aftermath. He also was criticized for allegedly dallying in dispersing federal aid, and he faced questions about how funds were used, particularly the use of $25 million to run a tourism campaign promoting the state.112
A recent series of stories by a government watchdog group accuses Christie of failing to declare as taxable income a $95,000 annual expense allowance from the state. It seems unlikely he intentionally sought to evade taxes, and it isn’t clear he was legally required to declare it as income, but accusations of tax-dodging are likely to be potent allegations made by critics on the campaign trail.113
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