What’s Chris Christie Done Wrong Now?

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With 2016 in the news and on the minds of so many Americans, there’s a considerable list of politicians who need to be careful what headlines get attached to their name. One of the more popular of the possible Republican candidates is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, with only Jeb Bush ahead of him, according to RealClearPolitics, assuming former-candidate Mitt Romney sticks by his decision not to run. However, Christie has something of a history when it comes to scandal, and given his past problems with the port authority and with Bridgegate, an all too easy political crisis to call to mind.

His latest problems have had to do with a gift from the owner of the Cowboys football team, Jerry Jones. The gift consisted of a flight to Dallas and tickets to the playoff game in a luxury suite. Now, this gift, and the concern and faux-concern surrounding it, deserves some attention — not necessarily to demonize the action even, simply to outline why it’s such a major topic of discussion, and if it really deserves to be.

Was accepting the gift breaking any laws?

So one obviously important question is whether or not Christie’s choice to accept the gift was really breaking any rules. Christie’s aids have told the Wall Street Journal that based on state laws, the governor is permitted to accept presents from “relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds.” Christie isn’t the only governor or politician to bump into these kinds of uncertainties. Another example would be New York Governor David Paterson, who was fined for receiving asked-for World Series tickets in 2010. Paterson, who paid a fine of $62,000 for his method of getting tickets, told WSJ that “all these regulations have good intentions, but some of these regulations have gone overboard.” Jerry Jones connection to the Port Authority

Part of the concern with the gift given to Christie is that he and Jones have had dealings in the past — indirectly — over a contract. A company owned by Jones received a competitive contract in 2013 from the Port Authority, however WSJ reports that company officials say Jones wasn’t directly involved in the bidding. Even so, there has been a clear business and government connection in the past, and a connection in the future isn’t entirely impossible. The way these lines may blur suggests a problematic pattern of incautious action on Christie’s part.

“I’m not sensitive about [that] because there had been [no illegalities]. It was almost circumstantial that we have any sort of business together with our activity up there at the Freedom Tower in New York,” said Jones in an interview with the Star-Telegram. “I wasn’t a part of that presentation and didn’t know him when we actually were in a really tough competition with a lot of great companies.”

Does Bridgegate and issues of our time matter?

Some would argue that even if there is no technical wrongdoing on the part of Christie, he is being careless given the issues this past year for his administration, and the fact that the Port Authority has been looking into how best to reform conflict of interest problems. On the one hand, it’s perhaps overly demanding to insist he consider each connection — including a sports team-related friendship and some tickets. It’s entirely possible the public would be less hard on him if it weren’t for his history — but he hardly has anyone else to blame for that suspicion. It’s also worth noting that other transactions with sports personalities have brought on questions, meaning this isn’t a single case in a vacuum.

According to the NY Daily News, the Port Authority has had connections with other Cowboy-related individuals. Roger Staubach of the NFL won a $12.5 million contract from the Port Authority following Christie’s reelection in 2012. It’s worth adding that Staubach donated $3,800 to his campaign — a personal donation, rather than a company one, but you begin to see how patterns can appear and concerns can become unclear. It could be that both of these examples are just a result of Christie’s important position and his interest in sports — understandable given how many areas of overlap he must see.

It could also be that this overlap deserves to be frowned upon every time because it is unusual. And given the previous scandal, it seems entirely fair to demand more cautious and considerate action from him, especially if he wants to be taken seriously as a 2016 candidate. Christie may prefer to be unapologetic and come-as-is. But there’s a reason he’s more open to criticism of this sort, and he’d do well to start acting accordingly.

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