Judge Tosses Lawsuit To Force Christie To Repay N.J. For Campaign Security Costs

NJ.com — April 8, 2016

By Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON —A lawsuit filed by left-leaning groups seeking to force Gov. Chris Christie to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of his security while on the presidential campaign trail has been tossed by a New Jersey judge.

Mercer County Judge Mary Jacobson dismissed the suit Thursday.

In August, three citizens groups sued Christie and his presidential campaign in an attempt to spare New Jersey taxpayers from picking up the the tab for the governor's security expenses while he is on the 2016 campaign trail.

"We're pleased that the court agreed that this was a case lacking merit and had far more to do with taking political shots during a campaign than anything else," Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said on Friday.

The governor's record amount of time out of state last year left taxpayers on the hook for at least $614,000 to pay for his State Police security detail, according to records. New Jerseyans have paid at least $1.769 million since Christie took office to cover out-of-state travel for the governor's Executive Protection Unit.

The lawsuit alleged the Christie campaign "inappropriately forced New Jersey taxpayers to cover the cost of the governor's security and other key expenses while pursuing the presidency."

But the judge didn't agree and the lawsuit was tossed.

Christie has long argued his State Police protection is mandatory regardless of what he's doing.

Christie launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in June. The out-of-state campaigning, coupled with travel related to his time as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, meant Christie spent 261 partial or full days traveling outside of New Jersey in 2015 — representing 72 percent of the year.

The governor has criticized media outlets for reporting "partial" days he spent out of state last year, which included short trips he took to neighboring Pennsylvania and New York, where Christie often traveled to appear on news programs or speak at events before returning home. The administration argues Christie spent 190 days out of state last year if you exclude those trips.

That's still 52 percent spent outside New Jersey.

The EPU bills totaled $613,693 for 2015. The costliest period of the year were the final three months 2015, when Christie spent much of his time on the road.

That broke the previous record for EPU costs under Christie, which was in 2014, when taxpayers footed $492,420 for out-of-state travel. The bills totaled $220,355 in 2013; $248,277 in 2012; $129,842 in 2011 and $64,975 in 2010.

None of those figures include the cost of overtime for the State Police troopers in EPU, which is kept confidential according to state regulations.

The troopers also acted as more than security for the governor on the campaign trail.

They were often Christie's mode of transportation while traveling on the ground in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, where Christie and his campaign staff rode in taxpayer-funded SUVs from one campaign event to the next.

The groups that filed the lawsuit included New Jersey Working Families Alliance and New Jersey Citizen Action.

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