New Jersey lawmakers say they are considering a formal government investigation of Gov. Chris Christie's acceptance of free travel and tickets to NFL games from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. The news followed International Business Times reports showing Christie accepted the gifts after his administration gave the NFL lucrative tax subsidies and Christie pushed for a Port Authority contract to be awarded to Jones’ firm.
A New Jersey lawmaker who led the investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures told IBTimes his committee will consider investigating whether Christie's acceptance of the travel and tickets violated New Jersey ethics rules. Those rules prohibit public officials from accepting gifts from from any person or entity they “deal with, contact or regulate in the course of official business.”
“The myth of Chris Christie is that he is strong ethically and that he is the corruption fighter, yet here we have him in a situation where he is doing something that all of us are looking at and saying it is pretty awkward,” state Sen. John Wisniewski, a Democrat, told IBTimes. He said Christie accepting the gifts from an NFL owner with whom the governor’s office does business “is something (lawmakers) ought to consider looking at.”
Christie’s office has argued despite Jones and the NFL doing business with the state, the governor is nonetheless permitted to accept the travel and tickets under an executive order he signed that permits him to accept gifts from “personal friends.”
Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release March 19, 2013, “calling on the Port Authority Board of Commissioners to approve the agreement” to let Jones' firm develop and operate the observation deck at One World Trade Center. The next day, Port Authority officials specifically cited that call in approving the contract. In the ensuing months, New Jersey also provided big tax subsidies to the NFL. Then Christie received the gifts of free travel and tickets to the Cowboys games. The Bergen Record reported industry experts say the gifts to Christie from Jones could be worth as much as $60,000 just for the seats.
Following reports from IBTimes and the Wall Street Journal, a Port Authority spokesperson issued a statement saying the Port Authority contract to Jones’ firm “was the result of a highly competitive procurement process.”