Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, “personally pushed” for a firm partly owned by Jerry Jones to receive a government contract in New York City prior to accepting free travel and tickets to multiple Cowboys games, according to a report from the International Business Times. The deal involved hospitality services at the World Trade Center:
On March 19, 2013, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release announcing their selection of Legends Hospitality LLC to operate the observation deck on the top floor of One World Trade Center. The next day, the Port Authority board — which is appointed by Christie and Cuomo — specifically cited the governors’ announcement in voting to approve the contract for the company, which is jointly owned by the Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and Checketts Partners Investment Fund. The Port Authority press release announcing the vote quotes Dallas Cowboys executive Jerry Jones, Jr. as saying: “We are humbled to have been chosen to operate the Observatory Deck.”
The IB Times has a separate report that Christie’s receipt of those accommodations from Jones may violate New Jersey ethics rules, which state that there’s “a zero tolerance policy for acceptance of gifts offered to you … that are related in any way to your official duties” and classify forbidden gifts as “admission to an event for which a member of the general public would be charged.”
The governor’s aides told the Wall Street Journal that the trips do not violate ethics laws because Christie is permitted to accept gifts from “relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds,” and that Jones and Christie have bonded over their mutual love of the Cowboys since the governor took office in 2010. The Yankees are also tangentially involved in this:
Randy Levine, president of the Yankees and a board member of Legends, said the bidding process was fair and didn’t involve political or personal favors, and that Messrs. Christie and Cuomo weren’t involved. “To try and tie one to the other is silly,” he said. Mr. Levine said New York officials at Legends were the primary officials on the bid and that Mr. Jones wasn’t involved, even though his family is a “significant” business owner in the company. He declined to say what percentage.
There are obviously tons of gray areas in political laws and ethics, and on a local level there must be untold amounts of wink-nudge kickbacks on some of these sweetheart stadium deals, but the personalities and institutions involved in this story will likely ensure that there’s a significant ripple effect.