Christie’s Security Travel Costs Hit $1.77M; How Most Was Spent Remains Mystery

Also not publicly known is the cost of overtime pay for state troopers who accompany the governor on his sojourns. State police overtime records became confidential under a 2011 regulation adopted by the Christie administration.

An NJ Spotlight analysis of internal administration documents, obtained through Open Public Records Act requests, illustrates how the EPU travel costs increased year by year as Christie pursued his political fortunes outside of New Jersey: + 2010 – $64,975: Security travel expenses during Christie’s first year as governor were roughly one-tenth of the 2015 total.

  • 2011 – $129,842: EPU expenses double as Christie starts to get national attention.

  • 2012 – $248,277: Costs double again as Christie’s political star continues to rise, culminating in his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention and campaign appearances for Mitt Romney.

  • 2013 – $220,355: Christie’s out-of-state trips decrease slightly as he campaigns in New Jersey for reelection as governor.

  • 2014 – $492,420: As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie journeys extensively to help raise $106 million in political contributions. While RGA pays for Christie’s expenses, taxpayers are stuck with the EPU bills.

  • 2015 – $613,693: More than $340,000 in EPU travel costs are racked up after June 30, the date Christie officially declared his candidacy for president. During 2015, Christie traveled outside the state for all or part of 261 days.

The EPU travel expenses for 2015 are 28 times higher than the $21,704 spent in 2009, former Gov. Jon Corzine’s final year in office.

It is unknown whether security travel expenses will decrease during Christie’s final two years as governor. After he dropped out of the presidential race, Christie endorsed GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and has started making campaign appearances across the country on his behalf. Travel may also help Christie keep a prominent national profile as he looks for a new job.

The governor recently told reporters the state will continue paying for his security details, regardless of the travel purpose. “You want to change that, run for office and change that,” said Christie.

Another unanswered question is why $1.52 million in EPU credit card charges to the state should be kept confidential

Last August, Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson dismissed a public records lawsuit seeking the AmEx statements. She ruled that details of past expenses including names of hotels and restaurants could create a future security risk for Christie. The judge noted that the charges were “almost entirely” for out-of-state trips. (Disclosure: Investigative reporter Mark Lagerkvist was the plaintiff in Lagerkvist vs. Office of Governor, Mercer County Superior Court, MER-L-463-15.)

Jacobson based her decision on a confidential sworn statement provided by Capt. Kevin Cowan, head of the EPU. “He unequivocally swears in that certification that release of the information would increase the risk of harm to the governor,” she said.

Yet a few months later, the governor’s campaign committee -- Chris Christie for President Inc. -- revealed many of those travel secrets in its quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission, a record publicly available online.

The campaign disclosed 34 hotels and 32 restaurants where the Christie entourage lodged and dined during the third quarter of 2015. It is precisely the type of information the governor’s office had asked the judge not to release.

The result is a paradox: The hotels, restaurants and airlines patronized by Christie and his campaign staff with private money from political contributions are a matter of public record. Yet details of the public cost for security during Christie’s White House run are kept secret by court order.

New Jersey voters overwhelmingly oppose Christie’s practice of sticking taxpayers with the travel bills of the state police escorts who follow him on the political trail, according to a Monmouth University poll last year.

Only 1 one percent of the voters polled thought the state should pay, while 82 percent said Christie’s campaign should take responsibility for the out-of-state security costs.


Mark Lagerkvist is a veteran investigative reporter who has worked for CNBC, News 12, Asbury Park Press, New Jersey Watchdog, and other newspaper, television and online news outlets. His work has won more than 60 journalism awards, including honors from National Press Club, Scripps Howard Foundation, and Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). He can be reached at [email protected].

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