CREW Files Ethics Complaint Against Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) for Accepting Free Travel and Lodging
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the New Jersey State Ethics Commission and the Advisory Ethics Panel against Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) for apparent violations of state ethics and conflict of interest laws and the Governor’s Code of Conduct. As part of a 2012 trade mission to Israel, Gov. Christie accepted gifts of free foreign travel, lodging, and entertainment for himself and his family, which in one case came from a party with official business before the state government.
In 2012, Gov. Christie and his family traveled to Israel for a trade mission, followed by a three-day stay in Jordan. The New York Times recently reported that Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner and Republican donor, provided his private jet to the Christie family for the trip, even as he was opposing pending legislation that would have legalized online gambling in New Jersey. The Times also reported that King Abdullah of Jordan paid for the Christie family’s lavish weekend in Jordan, which included two parties at the king’s residence, a desert champagne reception, and lodging at the Kempinski Hotel valued at nearly $30,000.
“By accepting Mr. Adelson’s gift of free flights for his family at the same time he was considering legislation related to Mr. Adelson’s business interests, Gov. Christie appears to have violated state conflict of interest laws,” said Anne Weismann, CREW’s Interim Executive Director. “Following anti-corruption laws does not seem to be nearly as important to the governor as a jet-setting lifestyle.”
New Jersey law prohibits state officers from accepting gifts or favors they believe are offered to influence their official conduct. The law also prohibits state officers from accepting gifts from any source other than the state for their official duties. By accepting the use of Mr. Adelson’s private jet for official travel while Mr. Adelson was opposing legislation awaiting the governor’s signature, Gov. Christie violated both the New Jersey Uniform Ethics Code and the Governor’s Code of Conduct.
Gov. Christie’s luxurious stay in Jordan, made in the course of a state trade mission, also violates state law. Despite Gov. Christie’s claims, the exception in the Governor’s Code of Conduct for gifts from relatives and personal friends clearly was never intended to apply to gifts paid for by heads of state.
“From Jerry Jones to King Abdullah, Chris Christie’s ‘friends’ seem to include anyone who can support his expensive tastes,” Ms. Weismann continued. “Surely the ethics commission will see around his particularly weak attempt at an end-run around the state’s gift rules.”