Caught: Justice Department probes GOP governor for lavish spending on cars, hotels
The Republican governor of New Jersey spent big money on luxury hotels without proper justification, a new Justice Department report reveals.
As a US Attorney, Gov. Chris Christie “provided insufficient, inaccurate or no justification,” in 14 of the 15 trips in question, the Department of Justice report (.pdf) said.
The review found that most US Attorneys rarely sought reimbursement above the government rate but Christie surpassed the rate by a total $2,176 over 23 trips. The rate was exceeded by as much as $242 per night.
“In terms of the percentage of travel, U.S. Attorney C was the U.S. Attorney who most often exceeded the government rate without adequate justification,” according to the report. “The U.S. Attorney provided insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification for 14 of 23 trips (61 percent) that exceeded the government rate.”
In one example, Christie traveled to Boston and stayed at the Nine Zero Hotel at a cost of $449 per night, which was more than double the government rate of $220 per night.
During a trip to Washington, DC, Christie stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel for $475 per night. The government rate for that city was set at $233 per night.
The review concluded that Christie, referred to as “Attorney C,” regularly overspent on lodging.
In sum, we concluded that U.S. Attorney C did not comply with the travel regulations or show that his lodging costs which exceeded the government rate were appropriate. The U.S. Attorney or his staff did not make an adequate effort to determine whether the government rate was available within a reasonable distance of his meetings. Most of the justification memoranda that we found simply stated that the government rate was unavailable, but provided no substantiation for this claim. In four cases, there was no justification memorandum at all. The justification for his stay at the Four Seasons Hotel (at a rate of $475 per night) was an early morning speech at the hotel. We do not believe this was a suitable justification for exceeding the government rate, particularly by such a large amount, if lodging at the government rate was available at a hotel within a reasonable distance from that hotel.
The Justice Department’s inspector general also found that Christie had “excessive” charges for travel. In the two trips to London and Boston cited, the governor spent $798 on car service.
At the time of the trips in question, Christie was in the middle of the 2009 gubernatorial campaign.
“There are only a few rooms at each hotel that are reserved for government rate,” Christie explained to the Asbury Park Press. “If you got them, you got them. If you didn’t, you didn’t. I wouldn’t have slept in the park.”
While campaigning for governor, Christie dismissed the controversy over his travel expenses as a “dust storm over peripheral issues.”