NorthJersey.com

Advocacy Groups Sue Christie Over Travel Security Costs

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Friday, August 21, 2015

By MELISSA HAYES
State House Bureau | The Record

Three liberal advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against Governor Christie and his presidential campaign arguing that taxpayers should not have to pay for the cost of his security detail when he's travelling for political purposes.

The governor's office sought nearly $185,000 in reimbursement from the New Jersey State Police for travel-related costs for Christie's security detail for the first three months of the year. While the governor did spend some time out of state on vacation, the vast majority of his travel during those months was related to his exploration of a presidential bid. Christie, who formally entered the GOP primary race June 30, has been spending increasingly more time outside New Jersey as he seeks his party's nomination.

The lawsuit was filed by New Jersey Working Families, BlueWaveNJ and New Jersey Citizen Action, all progressive grassroots political advocacy organizations.

"Chris Christie cannot be allowed to run for president on the dime of New Jersey taxpayers," said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families, in a news release. "If Governor Christie wants to continue his quixotic campaign, he should pay for it from his own campaign coffers instead of forcing hardworking taxpayers to foot the bill."

The suit, which was filed in Superior Court in Mercer County, also alleges that a representative of the governor's office was involved in securing a public facility — Livingston High School — for the governor's campaign kick off event. Several employees in the governor's office volunteered to staff that event.

"We've already made clear that there was no 'government time' used for campaign purposes," said Sam Smith, a spokeswoman for Christie's campaign, when asked to comment on the lawsuit.

Asked to comment on the campaign's decision not to reimburse the state for the cost of Christie's security detail on political trips, Smith said Christie is following the same policy as other New Jersey governors when they traveled outside New Jersey. She also provided a comment Christie made when asked about security costs by The Record during his first week on the campaign trail as an official candidate in New Hampshire last month.

"In the end, anywhere I go, the troopers need to go, whether I want them to go or not," Christie said in New Hampshire. "So we're going to continue to conduct this in the same way I've always conducted it."

The bills for Christie's security detail for the first quarter of this year are the most recent available. The governor's office submits memorandum to the State Police every few months seeking reimbursement for travel-related costs, including hotel stays, transportation and meals. Those costs are not broken out on the bills and the state has declined to release that specific information saying it could disclose how many state troopers are with the governor, which could compromise his security.

From February 2010, Christie's first full month in office, through March of this year, taxpayers have paid $1.34 million for travel-related security costs.

Some of the biggest bills were submitted last year when Christie travelled the country visiting 36 states and Washington, D.C. as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

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