TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey’s pugnacious, budget-cutting Gov. Chris Christie – widely mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for president – is catching grief for taking a state helicopter to his son’s high school baseball game and refusing to reimburse the state for the costs.
Critics portrayed Christie as a big hypocrite, given his tough talk about runaway spending, and Democrats called for an investigation Wednesday. GOP leaders, meanwhile, were mute, with no one immediately coming to his defense.
“Gov. Christie obviously doesn’t include himself in his hollow call for shared sacrifice,” Democratic state Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said as he called on the governor to publicly detail his use of state police helicopters and reimburse the taxpayers for any personal or political trips. “Gov. Christie must learn that taxpayers cannot afford his helicopter joyrides.”
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said there was nothing inappropriate or illegal about the governor’s use of the helicopter, which he said is relied on only when his schedule demands it.
“The governor does not reimburse for security and travel,” said Drewniak, who called the use of the helicopter “extremely limited and appropriate.”
Democratic lawmakers disagreed, with some calling for an investigation into the first-term governor’s travel.
Drewniak would not say precisely why Christie chose to fly to the game, but the governor scheduled a news conference for this afternoon.
Christie, his wife, Mary Pat, and an aide arrived by helicopter just before Tuesday night’s game between Delbarton High School and St. Joseph’s of Montvale began in Montvale. The couple stepped off the aircraft and into a trooper-driven car that drove them 100 yards to the bleachers, where they watched the game while flanked by state troopers. The Christies left during the fifth inning, and play was stopped briefly while the helicopter took off.
Christie, a former federal prosecutor who indicted politicians for misusing public money, has become a darling of the GOP, with party loyalists begging him to run for president. Christie left the ballgame to go to a dinner at the governor’s mansion in Princeton with a delegation of Iowans who tried – unsuccessfully – to persuade him to mount a White House bid.
He has built a national profile by fighting runaway spending by even the smallest state agencies and by calling for shared sacrifice by all public employees. He has issued nearly two dozen vetoes of spending by state authorities – some for less than $1,000.