The big man is at it again. The Garden State’s seen it before.
With New Jersey’s government shut down after Trenton blew through a July 1 budget deadline in a Seinfeldian showdown about nothing, there’s Chris Christie with his family enjoying a private holiday weekend at the state-owned beach house on Island Beach State Park reserved for the governor even as the popular 10-mile long park is closed to the public, with police turning away would-be visitors.
He’s commuting between the house on Long Beach Island and press conferences in Trenton, less than 60 miles away, in a nearly $3,000-an-hour state helicopter.
This isn’t a fall from grace story, though, about how Christie no longer gives a damn about living large as a public servant now that the one-time GOP golden boy's been reduced to delivering Donald Trump’s McDonald’s order on his way to leaving office at year’s end as the state’s least popular governor ever, and the country’s least popular governor of at least the last 20 years.
Christie never gave a damn.
After making the jump from lobbying and rainmaker to public service in what the Star-Ledger called “a patronage position, pure and simple” as George W. Bush’s U.S. Attorney for New Jersey after raising $350,000 for the new president’s 2000 campaign and despite no experience at all with criminal law, he set out from jump to get what he could for himself from his service.
He was the the U.S. Attorney most likely to bill the government “without adequate justification” for rooms far above its rather generous rates at places like the Four Seasons, according to a DOJ Inspector General report he refused to cooperate with. His secretary told the IG that Christie only booked pricier rooms when no “decent” one was available — as was apparently the case in five consecutive cities on one of his trips.
He got to and from those “decent” rooms in style, too, charging the government $236 for a 4-mile round-trip fare between his Boston flight and hotel, and $562 for a car to between the airport and his hotel in London.
As governor, he took his champagne taste for “decent” accommodations to the next level, sometimes finding private patrons to foot those bills. A New York Times accounting of Christie’s lavish ways as he prepared for his presidential run last year opens with the $30,000 in hotel rooms for a three-day family vacation in Jordan paid for by his “friend,” King Abdullah.
That trip—complete with champagne toasts with Bono at royal palaces and desert resorts—came at the end of a state trip to Israel along with “his wife, three of his four children, his mother-in-law, his father and stepmother, four staff members, his former law partner and a state trooper” on a private plane paid for by Shelly Adelson, at the same time the Vegas titan was hoping to keep Jersey from legalizing gambling statewide (Adelson says he didn’t personally lobby Christie about this). That was one of at least three “trade missions,” along with ones to London and Mexico City, where Christie's family came with him on private flights to stay in five-star hotels.
“I relish these experiences and exposures, especially for my kids,” he’d explained to the paper a year earlier. “I try to squeeze all the juice out of the orange that I can.”
Like his trips on “friend” and Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones private plane to watch football games in the owner’s box — which began just after the Port Authority Christie shares control of gave a company Jones partly owns the contract to operate the observation deck at the new World Trade Center.
Or his state-sponsored trip with his wife to the 2013 Super Bowl, to “prepare” for the big game in Jersey the next year, where plane tickets for four came to $8,146 and his hotel rooms for three nights to $3,371. It took a year in court for the Bergen Record to force Christie to disclose those public records.
Same for the chopper trips — along with his ever-present security detail — to his son’s high school games 80 miles away that Christie at first refused to pay for, insisting the pilots would have been in the air anyways.
Did I mention the black car there when the chopper landed on a football field to take him the 100 yards from the landing spot to the baseball diamond and back? Or the chopper flight after five innings of one of those games to Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion in Princeton, for a meeting with wealthy Iowa donors hoping to back his potential 2012 presidential campaign?
“That’s just the way it goes,” he told reporters in Trenton Saturday, just before helicoptering off to what the government shutdown he triggered has transformed into his own 10-mile-long private patch of the Jersey shore.
“Run for governor, and you can have a residence.”