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“A Stunningly Adacious, Inveterate Liar”: Why A New Jersey Puffer Fish Should Not Be President

When Mitt Romney’s campaign was investigating potential choices to be his 2012 running mate, they gave each prospect a fish-themed code name, such as Lake Fish, Filet-O-Fish, etc. Their name for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a tireless self-promoter known for his bloated ego, was Puffer Fish.

The Romneyites determined that the prima donna governor was wholly unqualified to be America’s vice president, but the rejection didn’t deflate Christie’s puffed-up self-esteem one dot, and he has continued to brag, bluster, and bully his way into national politics. Having convinced at least himself that he’s the can-do, big-idea, forceful leader America needs, the Jersey guv is now offering to be our president and has become No. 14 on the Republican presidential dance card! How exciting is that?

Before accepting, however, you might check with one group of voters who are less than enchanted: the people of New Jersey. With a moribund economy, a state budget mess, a growing pension crisis, the state infrastructure crumbling and his own office caught in a web of scandals, Christie is not faring well with the homefolk, earning a sorry 30 percent approval rating, with most voters saying they dislike “everything about him.”

Nationwide, only Donnie Trump is rated lower than Christie by Republican primary voters. But he has found one friend — Maine governor Paul LePage has enthusiastically endorsed him! Problem is, LePage is even more insufferable and insolent than Christie, so arrogant and autocratic that he’s even alienated fellow Republicans in Maine and is now threatened with impeachment.

Still, if anything, the Puffer Fish’s ego is puffier than ever. Asked on Fox News why 65 percent of New Jersey voters say he’d make a poor president and shouldn’t run, the vainglorious governor actually said: “They want me to stay. Don’t leave to run for president, because we want you to stay.”

It’s one thing for a politician to say that, but — far scarier — Christie is so out of touch with reality that he actually believes it!

The Big Man from New Jersey entered the race with all the chutzpah and hullaballoo that marked his five and a half years as governor of the Garden State, promising to be a truth-telling leader: “There is one thing you will know for sure,” he roared in his announcement speech. “I say what I mean and mean what I say.”

Swell, Chris… but when your campaign slogan is “Telling It Like It Is,” it would help if you were not infamous in your home state as a stunningly audacious, inveterate liar. Even the editor of Jersey’s largest newspaper felt a journalistic duty to warn America about Christie. “Don’t believe a word the man says,” the editor wrote, pointing not to a few fibs and fabrications, but a lengthy “catalog” of “over-the-top, hair-raising type of lies,” including these gems:

  • Having assured public employees that their pensions were “sacred” to him, Christie then made cutting their pensions the centerpiece of his first term in office.
  • This June, he bragged on national TV that a court had approved those pension cuts — but the court actually ruled them unconstitutional.
  • At a recent South Carolina gun rights meeting, Christie crowed that “no new (gun laws) have been made since I’ve been governor,” when in fact he has enacted three gun-control measures.
  • After he and his family racked up a $30,000 hotel bill during a luxurious weekend getaway at a Jordanian resort, paid for by the King of Jordan, Christie claimed the junket was not a violation of the state gift ban, for he and the king were personal friends — but he’d only met the king once at a political dinner.

Beware of Christie the compulsive liar. As the newspaper editor bluntly put it: “He’s a creep.”

 

By: Jim Hightower, Featured Post, The National Memo, July 8, 2015

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, New Jersey | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Big Appetite”: Christie Buys $300K Of Food & Booze With NJ Expense Account

Chris Christie’s expense account tells a story of appetite and ambition, one that pits government waste versus the New Jersey governor’s waistline.

Christie spent $360,000 from his state allowance during his five years in office. More than 80 percent of that money, or $300,000, was used to buy food, alcohol and desserts, according to a New Jersey Watchdog analysis of records released by the governor’s office.

In addition to his $175,000 a year salary, the governor receives $95,000 a year in expense advances, paid quarterly by the state. In the state budget, it is listed as “an allowance of funds not otherwise appropriated and used for official receptions on behalf of the state, the operation of an official residence, for other expenses.”

While Christie returns surplus funds to the state each year, Treasury officials say he does not submit receipts or accounting for the public monies he spends. The governor’s ledger, obtained from Christie under the Open Public Records Act, offers a rare, if partial glimpse of a controversial expense account shrouded in secrecy.

Christie’s most notable spending spree occurred during the 2010 and 2011 NFL football seasons at MetLife Stadium, where the New York’s Giants and Jets play their home games. New Jersey’s governor traditionally enjoys free use of luxury boxes for games and other events at the government-owned venue, but food and beverages cost extra.

On 58 occasions, Christie used a debit card to pay a total of $82,594 to Delaware North Sportservice, which operates the concessions at MetLife. The governor’s office did not provide any receipts, business reasons or names of individuals entertained, but defended the expense.

“The official nature and business purpose of the event remains the case regardless of whether the event is at the State House, Drumthwacket or a sporting venue,” said Christie’s press secretary Kevin Roberts in a prepared statement.

To avoid a potential scandal that could embarrass their rising political star, the New Jersey Republican State Committee reimbursed the Treasury in March 2012 for Christie’s purchases from “DNS Sports.”  Since then, the governor has refrained from using his expense account at MetLife and other sports venues.

Meanwhile, Christie found other ways to enjoy the allowance.

The governor used it to buy $102,495 worth of groceries and alcoholic beverages from retail stores. It’s not clear from records whether the goods stocked the pantries and filled the refrigerators at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official mansion in Princeton, or the Mendham house where Christie and his family live. The store addresses were not disclosed.

Christie did most of his serious food shopping at Wegmans Food Markets, where he spent $76,373 during 53 shopping runs.  He patronized ShopRite supermarkets 51 times for $11,971 in purchases – plus another $6,536 in seven visits to ShopRite’s liquor stores.

Those grocery bills dropped dramatically in early 2013, shortly after Barbara Walters asked on network television whether Christie was too overweight to be president.

“There are people who say you couldn’t be president because you’re so heavy,” said Walters in an ABC special that aired in December 2012. “What do you say to that?”

“That’s ridiculous,” Christie shot back. “I mean, that’s ridiculous.”

Two months later, the governor underwent Lap-Band surgery in an attempt to lose weight.  Nearly two years after the operation to restrict the size of his stomach, Christie boasted he had shed 85 pounds.

It also shrank Christie’s supermarket bills.

The governor bought $64,687 in groceries during the 38 months leading up to the surgery.  That tab shrank to $31,236 for the 26 months after the operation.

On top of those food bills, Christie spent another $109,133 to hire caterers for official state receptions and special events – expenses more consistent with the stated purpose of the allowance. His favorite vendor was Jacques Exclusive Caterers of Middletown, which received $74,161 worth of business from the governor.

Other payments included $35,027 for tents and rental equipment, $10,786 for printing and office supplies and $4,338 for candy, cookies and confections.

The records released by the governor’s office did not include receipts or descriptions of what was purchased. Such secrecy would change under a bill introduced by Assemblymen Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, and Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic.

“New Jersey taxpayers have every right to know where their hard-earned money goes,” said Mazzeo. “Any governor who makes a responsible and appropriate use of this expense account should have no objection to complying with what’s required under this bill.”

If enacted, A-4424 would require the governor to disclose expenses with receipts in an annual report to be posted on the State Ethics Commission web site.

“There is a growing sense of cynicism in politics today and it is imperative for those of us in public office to overcome that cynicism by ensuring a more transparent and accountable system,” added Singleton.

As Christie’s out-of-state travel increased while he pursued his political ambitions, the governor’s state allowance expenditures decreased. During those political journeys, many of the costs have been picked by the state GOP, the Republican Governors Association and his PAC, Leadership Matters for America.

In 2010, the governor spent all but $2,716 of his state expense allowance during his first year in office.  The annual surpluses grew to $9,882 in 2011, $21,225 in 2012, $47,472 in 2013 and $30,377 last year. Christie returned those monies to the Treasury, according to records he provided.

However, the rising costs of protecting the governor on his sojourns away from New Jersey dwarfed any decreases in allowance expenditures by Christie.

The travel costs for the state police’s Executive Protection Unit reached $492,420 in 2014. It is 22 times more than the $21,704 spent in 2009, former Gov. Jon Corzine’s last year in office.

During Christie’s first five years as governor, EPU travel costs totaled nearly $1.2 million.

The governor’s office has not responded to New Jersey Watchdog’s questions about the expenses. Instead, Roberts pointed to his previous statement: “These are the same standards and practices that every other former governor followed when it comes to their security detail.”

Over the past five years, $975,000 of those security costs were charged to American Express credit cards issued to the governor’s office. Christie has flatly refused to release the monthly statements, claiming details of past expenditures could jeopardize his safety in the future.

New Jersey Watchdog is suing Christie in Mercer County Superior Court to force the governor to release the Amex records of EPU charges.

 

By: Mark Lagerkvist, New Jersey Watchdog.org, May 11, 2015

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, New Jersey, New Jersey State Budget | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It Ain’t Over Yet, There’s A Whole New Inquiry”: Christie’s Administration Is Facing Another Investigation

If after last week’s Bridgegate indictments you thought Chris Christie was finally done as the focus of government investigations, think again. The Republican governor’s administration in New Jersey is facing a whole new inquiry — this one involving hundreds of millions of dollars, and not just blocked-off bridge lanes.

At issue are the fees being paid by New Jersey’s beleaguered public pension system to Wall Street firms. In recent years, Christie’s officials have shifted more of the retirement savings of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public workers into the hands of private financial firms. That has substantially increased the management fees paid by taxpayers to those firms. Indeed, while Christie says the pension system cannot afford to maintain current retirement benefits, pension fees paid to financial firms have quadrupled to $600 million a year — or $1.5 billion in total since he took office in 2010.

In recent months, details have emerged showing that Christie officials have directed lucrative pension management deals to some financial companies whose executives have made contributions to Republican groups backing Christie’s election campaigns. Additionally, Christie’s officials have admitted that they have not been fully disclosing all the fees the state has been paying to private financial firms.

Not surprisingly, this has made the trustees who oversee the state’s retirement system more than a little bit nervous — especially since the ever-higher fees have coincided with below-median returns for the state’s pension fund. So the trustees began asking questions, and when they didn’t get the answers they were looking for, they announced in April that they are launching a formal investigation of the matter.

Wayne Hall, the chairman of one of the state’s pension funds, told the Newark Star-Ledger that the new investigation is designed to help retirees understand why the state is paying so much.

“I’m a layman. I’m not on Wall Street. I’m not an investor, and I have 33,000 people that I answer to and they’re not investors either,” he told the newspaper. “Why are we paying that kind of money? When I see the exorbitant fees the state has been paying for the last couple of years, I have to question that.”

In their quest for better disclosure, Hall and his colleagues received a boost from an unlikely source: conservative activists. When it comes to pensions, those activists are often calling for benefit cuts, but when it comes to transparency, they are standing on the same side as the retirees.

“Both government workers and taxpayers deserve to know why such an incredible sum is being expended every year with the current system in deep crisis,” said Erica Klemens of the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “These are dollars that could be funding the system and preventing the state’s pension hole from growing even deeper. The decision by the trustees to look into this matter is the right thing to do.”

You might assume that the conservative support was designed to set the stage for New Jersey’s Republican governor to cooperate with the investigation’s push for transparency. But no — quite the opposite.

Only days after prosecutors indicted his appointees in the Bridgegate affair, Christie vetoed a bipartisan anti-corruption bill designed to insulate the state’s pension system from undue political influence. One of that bill’s provisions would have forced the state to better disclose the fees being paid to politically connected Wall Street firms.

That leaves the trustees to try get to the bottom of what’s really happening at the state’s $80 billion pension fund. They may not have the governor’s bully pulpit, but thousands of retirees are relying on them to bring the truth out from the shadows.

 

By: David Sirota, Senior Writer at The International Business Times; The National Memo, May 8, 2015

May 10, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, New Jersey, Public Pension Funds | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie’s New Jersey Faces Yet Another Downgrade”: The State’s Structural Finances Are In A Very Precarious Condition

It was about a year ago when New Jersey’s debt was downgraded for the sixth time since Gov. Chris Christie (R) took office in 2010. The announcement came soon after the Republican governor scrapped his state pension-reform plan.

Four months later, the Garden State was hit with another downgrade. Then another. Late yesterday, it happened yet again.

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded New Jersey’s debt rating, dealing the Garden State its record ninth ratings cut since Gov. Chris Christie took office.

The ratings drop by one notch, from A1 to A2, on $32.2 billion worth of bonds underscores the state’s “weak financial position and large structural imbalance, primarily related to continued pension contribution shortfalls,” Moody’s said in a statement Thursday…. Credit downgrades make it more expensive for the state to borrow money to pay for things like road improvements and school construction.

The agency warned that the state’s structural finances are in a precarious enough condition that future downgrades may be necessary.

Christie not only holds the state record for the governor with the most downgrades, he holds a comfortable lead in this ignominious competition against his next closest rival.

In the larger context, I don’t doubt that the governor will kick off his presidential campaign soon, but I’m honestly not sure what he’ll say.

State pension reform, the “landmark achievement” of Christie’s first term, is no more. He’s still getting slammed, repeatedly, for the bridge scandal, which isn’t yet resolved. Job creation in New Jersey has been slower than most of the country, and its unemployment rate is still above the national average.

The Republican can’t point to his management skills, or his presidential temperament, or his legislative accomplishments. He can’t point to his standing in the polls, or his electability, or his major donors who’ve started to embrace different candidates.

Unpredictable things happen during a race for national office, but in a crowded, competitive field, it’s tough to see Christie’s road to success.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 17, 2015

April 18, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, New Jersey, Pension Plans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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