Chris Christie Got a Lot of Presents as Governor

by | January 23, 2015

By Andrew Seidman

Bruce Springsteen CDs, the Bible, books about weight loss and foreign affairs, a Cuban flag, and a bottle of Pinot Noir.

New Jersey's governor has received more than 1,100 gifts since he took office in 2010, according to newly disclosed records. They come from national politicians like Mitt Romney, local officials and organizations, and regular folks.

There is no evidence that any of the gifts were improper under New Jersey law.

The records were obtained by the liberal group American Bridge, which conducts opposition research on GOP stars like Gov. Christie. The group provided the records to NJ.com, which posted a gift database online. Christie's office declined to comment.

In December 2013, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) gave Christie the book Young Guns, which Cantor authored with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2012, and U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), who replaced Cantor as majority leader last year.

Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, gave Christie a copy of his book No Apology.

The family of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry gave Christie a Christmas ornament, as did Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The records say the governor's office did not reply to Walker. He, Perry, and Romney are all considered potential rivals of Christie for the GOP nomination in 2016.

In May, Christie received framed photos of him with President Obama (sender undisclosed). The photos are in Christie's Newark office, according to the records, but it was unclear whether they were on display.

Most items weren't political: kids' paintings, T-shirts, Shore memorabilia, and lots of weight-loss books.

The disclosure comes after Christie came under scrutiny in recent weeks for receiving free tickets and travel via private jet from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to attend the team's games.

Records of Christie's Cowboys travels were not included in the database. The state's ethics laws, as articulated by an executive order signed by Christie in 2010, say the governor may accept gifts from relatives or personal friends "that are paid for with personal funds."

He is required to disclose noncash gifts greater than $200 in value on his annual financial-disclosure forms. Christie typically submits those forms in May.

The governor also may accept and retain "a gift of minimal value tendered and received as a souvenir or mark of courtesy," according to the executive order.

Under the order, "minimal value" is defined in accordance with the Federal Gift and Decorations Act, which sets it at $375 or less.

Gifts of greater value are "deemed to have been accepted on behalf" of the state, and therefore become its property, Christie's order says. The governor may retain such gifts during his tenure or purchase them at fair market value.

Versions of the order were signed by governors dating back to Jim McGreevey in 2003.

Some gifts point to what Christie's political future may hold.

For example, Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who worked for both Bush administrations, gave Christie a copy of his memoir about the wars in Iraq, War of Necessity, War of Choice. Haass supported the first Iraq war and criticized the 2003 invasion. Christie has reportedly been studying foreign policy as he considers whether to run for president.

(c)2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer