The costs for the private jet flight and luxury box seats Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expended on New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie for Sunday’s game crossed no ethical boundaries, a Christie spokesperson said this afternoon.
Responding to questions of who paid for the trip, Kevin Roberts, the spokesperson, said in a statement that Jones, who has joined the governor on the sidelines for more than one occasion now, provided Christie and members of his family with tickets to three games and paid for the family to fly in a private jet to Sunday’s playoff game in Dallas. And Christie’s acceptance of those gifts was permissible because, under an executive order signed by Christie in 2010 that revised the office’s code of conduct, implemented by former Gov. James E. McGreevey in 2003, the governor is allowed to accept favors from “personal friends.”
Some initially wondered whether the gifts were kosher, as they were given to Christie despite the NFL doing business with New Jersey and despite state ethics laws prohibiting gifts from entities doing business with the state.
There’s also another issue: Legends Hospitality, a company in which Jones has an interest, received a license last year to run an observatory atop One World Trade Center, which is operated by the Port Authority. Christie along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo control the bi-state agency, and The New York Yankees, along with the Cowboys, own Legends. The company’s One World Trade Center deal is expected to produce $875 million in revenue over 15 years for the Port Authority.
Christie’s people maintain the governor was not acting in his executive capacity, and that Jones is a friend.
“Governor Christie attended the game last night as a guest of Jerry Jones, who provided both the ticket and transportation at no expense to New Jersey taxpayers,” Roberts said.
Christie presence at Sunday’s game — where he was caught in a decidedly awkward physical embrace with Jones following the team’s winning touchdown, donning a underripe tomato orange sweater — immediately sparked a firestorm of media attention and criticism. Non-Cowboys fans everywhere flocked to Twitter in particular to berate the Republican, who’s widely expected to announce a 2016 presidential primary run this month.
One part of the whole spectacle that will cost New Jersey taxpayers money, however, was the wages for the New Jersey State Police security detail that Christie brought along with him — something Roberts called standard procedure.