New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – whose spending practices have come under fierce criticism in the past – used the bulk of a state allowance during his five years in office on food, alcohol and desserts, according to a new analysis.
According to a records analysis by New Jersey Watchdog, of the $360,000 from the expense budget, $300,000 went toward such consumption. That includes $82,594 being shelled out over the course of 58 visits to the concessions operator at MetLife Stadium during the 2010 and 2011 football seasons.
Besides the $82,594 on concessions at the stadium, where the Jets and Giants play, the report showed Christie shelled out $102,495 on groceries and alcoholic beverages from retail stores. That includes 53 shopping trips and a total of $76,373 at Wegmans Food Markets, 51 visits to ShopRite supermarkets totaling $11,971 and seven trips totaling $6,536 to ShopRite’s liquor stores.
Christie, who is considering running for president in 2016, is paid a $175,000 salary but in addition receives $95,000 a year for expenses associated with his job, including entertainment.
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the governor, pushed back on the report, which characterizes the expense account as being “shrouded in secrecy.”
“Whenever the Governor hosts an event in his official capacity, the discretionary account is available to pay for those costs associated with official reception and hosting and related incidental expenses. The official nature and business purpose of the event remains the case regardless of whether the event is at the State House, [governor’s official mansion at] Drumthwacket, or at a sporting venue,” he told msnbc.
Roberts also pointed out that costs associated with hosting at sporting venues during 2010 and 2011 were reimbursed by the state Republican Party. Christie told reporters last week in New Hampshire—where he is testing out the presidential waters -- that he personally made that decision.
Christie said he believes such discretionary funds are justifiable, but “in today’s world where everything is kind of twisted and turned to look like it’s something wrong when it isn’t, I just said in 2012 to my folks, ‘listen let’s just have the state party pay for this.’”
As the Associated Press noted, the decision to stop using taxpayer funds for such spending at sporting events, was made after Christie came under scrutiny for traveling to his son’s baseball games via state helicopter. Still, Christie’s expenses have made headlines, including a New York Times report detailing the governor’s questionable luxury trips. Some also raised ethical concerns after news broke that Christie’s trip to watch a Dallas Cowboys playoff game was paid for by team owner Jerry Jones.
As for the $102,495 spent on groceries and alcoholic beverages, the report noted that it’s not clear where the food and drink items were taken and that the governor’s grocery bills became much smaller after he underwent weight-loss surgery. While Christie spent $64,687 on such items in the 38 months before surgery, just $31,236 was spent afterward.
Christie returns to New Hampshire on Tuesday, where he continues to test out the 2016 waters. The governor has said he will not make an official decision on whether to seek the nation’s highest office until later this month or in June.