In the hard-fought New Jersey governors race, Democrats are pushing hard on the AP report yesterday that Republican candidate Chris Christie went over the government lodging allowance on 14 of the 16 trips he took last year while he was U.S. attorney,
But an examination by TPMDC of Christie travel recrods from 2004-2008 paints a more nuanced picture than the one of a extravagant federal prosecutor that Democrats are trying to paint.On the high end, Christie spent nearly $500 in taxpayer money on a night’s stay in four star hotel in downtown Boston, claiming government rate rooms “weren’t available.” On the low end, Christie requested $109 for a night in Warsaw, IN. The majority of the trips for which Christie formally requested to spend more than the government allows fall somewhere in between those two examples.
The Boston trip came on Oct. 16, 2007. Christie stayed one night at the Nine Zero Hotel downtown, which touts its ranking as one of Travel And Leisure magazine’s 500 best hotels in the world. The room was $449 per night, which Christie asked the Justice Department to pay because, according to the memo he submitted to the department’s budget officer, “due to a high demand for rooms, the government rate is not available for my stay in Boston.”
On Nov. 17, 2004, Christie made a trip to D.C. and stayed at the Willard Intercontinental, arguably the city’s finest and most prestigious and unarguably among its most expensive. Again, he claimed it was the best deal he could find. “I was unable to locate lodging at the government rate,” he wrote in a memo dated Nov. 22. “The only available lodging was at a rate of $449.00 at the Willard hotel.”
On another trip to D.C. on Oct. 15, 2008, Christie again went over budget limits to stay at a tony spot — this time, the Four Seasons on Pennsylvania Ave. The explanation for the overage is redacted in the memo obtained by TPMDC.
But other instances where Christie went over the government limit are somewhat less extravagant and far less expensive. They include multiple trips to Memphis, TN (Christie requested between $159 and $209 to stay at the Westin on the city’s famed Beale St) and Orlando (where he requested around $300/night at various luxury hotels around the city on different dates.) In all those requests, Christie lists “there were no rooms available at the government rate” as explanation for why he needed funds over and above the federal limits.
One trip is especially illustrative of the variety in travel found in the Christie records. On Oct. 16, 2008, Christie requested $109 to stay at the Hampton Inn in Warsaw, IN (pop. 12,500). The rate was over the government limit. “Because of the small size of the town,” Christie wrote in his memo requesting the funds, “there is limited lodging available.”
Late Update: Gov. Jon Corzine spokesperson Sean Darcy says, “Every day Mr. Christie becomes less and less believable when he tries to cover his tracks, especially on this issue of ripping off taxpayers to the tune of $100,000. This goes to the core of Mr. Christie’s campaign. He can’t talk about cutting spending as he abuses taxpayer dollars.”
The RGA and the Christie camp haven’t offered comment. We’ll post it when they do.