On Sunday night, Chris Christie (sort of) shocked the nation by giddily embracing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — the natural enemy of the New Jersey governor’s constituency of Giants, Jets, and Eagles fans. Now The Wall Street Journal points out that in addition to being offensive to certain football lovers, Christie’s decision to watch the playoff game in Jones’s suite also looks a little like an ethics violation.
A spokesperson told the WSJ that Christie “attended the game [Sunday] night as a guest of Jerry Jones, who provided both the ticket and transportation at no expense to New Jersey taxpayers.” That sounds good, except for:
The Cowboys, along with the New York Yankees and Checketts Partners Investment Fund, are owners of Legends Hospitality, the operator of a soon-to-be-opened observatory of the 104-story One World Trade Center—operated by the Port Authority, which Mr. Christie jointly controls with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo . Financial terms of the deal haven’t been publicly disclosed.
Legends won the rights to the observation deck (which is expected to generate $875 million over the next 15 years) through a public bidding process. Yankees president and Legends board member Randy Levine told WSJ that Jones wasn’t directly involved in the deck deal. However, the Cowboys owner’s family does have a “significant” stake in the firm.
Christie’s office stressed that while New Jersey lawmakers are prohibited from accepting any gifts that could create a conflict of interest, a special provision allows the governor to take stuff from “relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds.” The hug that Christie and Jones shared does seem to indicate that they’re friends — but, then again, it’s pretty easy to be friends with someone who shares your interests in both Tony Romo and projects that are partially overseen by the state of New Jersey.
Either way, you’d think that Christie would want to avoid any hint of impropriety when it comes to the Port Authority — what with his recent and well-documented troubles there — but apparently nothing gets between the governor and his Cowboys.