Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lagerkvist: Christie's security expenses hit $1.7M, details remain secret

Christie’s security travel costs hit $1.77 million; how most was spent remains a mystery

The travel costs of the governor’s security detail soared last year with Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions, but details of how the taxpayers’ money was spent remain a state secret.

Of the nearly $614,000 spent on travel in 2015 by the State Police Executive Protection Unit, $545,000 was charged to American Express cards issued to the governor’s office. Citing concerns for Christie’s safety, the state has refused to release the Amex statements that list food, lodging, transportation and incidental expenses for out-of-state trips.

Overall, EPU expenses totaled nearly $1.77 million for Christie’s first six years as New Jersey governor. More than 85 percent – or $1.52 million – was charged to state Amex accounts, effectively exempt from outside scrutiny.

A NJ Spotlight analysis of internal administration documents, obtained through Open Public Records Act requests, illustrate 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 re-election 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 complete story and supporting documents are online at NJ Spotlight – http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/03/13/christie-s-security-travel-costs-hit-1-77m-how-most-was-spent-remains-mystery/

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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 Mark@Lagerkvist.net.

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