Dallas Cowboys fan and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was seen in sports news highlight reels hugging and celebrating in a luxury box with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last Sunday as the Texas team defeated the Detroit Lions in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Jones has been treating Christie as his personal good luck charm, flying the governor down to experience a Cowboys playoff game on Jones’ dime, and has even suggested that, if his team keeps winning, he might endorse Christie for president in 2016.
However, Chris Christie, who snubbed his own state’s football teams in order to continue rooting for his childhood favorite, is facing new corruption allegations over his lucrative friendship with Jerry Jones. The rumored 2016 presidential candidate’s reputation recently took a hit when he was accused of closing lanes on the George Washington bridge to create traffic problems in an alleged attempt to punish a political rival. Now, according to International Business Times, Governor Christie is facing additional allegations that, two years ago, he personally pushed for a firm owned by Jerry Jones to receive a lucrative Port Authority contract.
Democratic New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the lawmaker who first investigated the George Washington bridge scandal, is considering launching an additional investigation into Christie’s relationship with Jones. Wisniewski told ABC News, “The governor of the state of New Jersey should be above being influenced by that type of gratuity: air fare for his entire family and self and tickets to a game… It certainly looks really bad…. I’m not going to argue the fact that the rules he is obliged to follow may in fact create a personal exception, but what I will argue is he should not have availed himself of that because it looks bad. It set a bad precedent.”
Chris Christie’s office claims that, though his state’s ethics rules bar officials from accepting gifts from persons or organizations receiving contracts from the state, an executive order exempts gifts from personal friends of the governor from that ban. Christie argues that Jones is a personal friend and, as such, it is legal for the two to exchange gifts. Wisniewski said of the exemption, “They are friends because he happens to be the governor and therein lies the problem.”
In April of 2013, Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a deal between Jones’ firm Legends Hospitality LLC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, granting the company a lucrative contract to run an observation deck at the top of One World Trade. The Washington Post notes that the deal is expected to earn the Port Authority $875 million over 15 years. Legends Hospitality LLC is co-owned by the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Checketts Partners Investment Fund. Chris Christie also gave $18 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies to the National Football League prior to receiving the free airfare and playoff tickets.
In an effort to estimate the value of Jones’ gift to Christie, USC Marshall Sports Business Institute executive director David M. Carter told NJ.com, “For games such as Sunday’s, and extending further into the playoffs, the value of any suite ticket could easily be deemed priceless by many fans for whom that game day experience would likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”