New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is taking some flak for the expensive trip he took to see his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, play last Sunday — all on team owner Jerry Jones’ dime.
How much of a dime? Christie’s press office isn’t saying, so we attempted to tote it up.
A ride to Dallas on a private jet for Christie and his family? Worth roughly $20,000, according to Allentown-based aviation expert Dean Browning.
A ticket to watch an NFL playoff game in a luxury suite? Anywhere from $1,250 to $2,600.
Another controversy swirling around this future presidential contender?
Priceless, says political communications expert Mark Irion, who thinks it all helps the governor’s image.
“Chris Christie loves football. America loves football,” he said. “He’s enthusiastic about his childhood team and that resonates with most people.”
The backlash from some quarters over Christie’s triumphant hug of Jones isn’t just about his love of a Texas team in a state that mostly roots for its archrivals, the New York Giants or the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s unclear how Jones’ gift squares with New Jersey’s strict ethics rules, but based on an executive order Christie signed in 2010, governors get some leeway for gifts from personal friends.
Another twist: The Wall Street journal reports a hospitality firm of which Jones owns a piece has a long-term contract with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. That, of course, is the agency at the center of the “Bridgegate” scandal.
Disagreeing with Irion’s take, Princeton University political historian Julian Zelizer says this and other episodes threaten Christie’s American “everyman” image.
“He doesn’t want to undermine that by getting too close or taking too many gifts from the sorts of people who are angering a lot of voters right now and I think that’s the real price he pays,” Zelizer said.
A Christie spokesman did not respond to multiple requests to comment.
The American Democracy Legal Fund – a Democratic group with ties to Hillary Clinton and the opposition research firm American Bridge – has filed a complaint with the New Jersey Ethics Commission over the Cowboys trip.
The legislative committee that probed Bridgegate says it may also look into the matter.
Update 8:15 p.m. Christie’s Communications Director, Maria Comella responded to the American Democracy Legal Fund’s ethics complaint in an e-mailed statement: “Is anyone surprised pro-Hilary PACs like American Bridge and partisan organizations like the DNC are using the Governor’s support of a football team for a political hit?”