Chris Christie Rides into Dallas Like a Cowboy

This could be a story about football, I suppose, or about politics and privilege in America. It shouldn’t necessarily be about Chris Christie though he is a central figure. It is a story about how all of us can become wrapped up in poor choices and the consequences those choices yield.

Chris Christie Jerry JonesAbout two weeks ago, while I was watching the Detroit Lions in their playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, the camera scanned up to Jerry Jones, Cowboy’s owner, in his owner’s box seated next to a guy who looked remarkably like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. At first I thought it was probably an assistant or an ex-football player; lo and behold, the man was identified as the governor and that is when a few bells and whistles went off in my head.

On January 6, 2015, Ron Clements wrote an article for Sporting News entitled: “Did Chris Christie’s trip to see Cowboys violate ethics code?” Mr. Clements must have been thinking the same thing that I was thinking. After all, Jerry Jones paid for Chris Christie’s ticket and all of his travel expenses.

“Christie, who has been New Jersey’s governor since 2010, is considered a 2016 presidential candidate, but can’t seem to escape controversy. Whether it was the bridge scandal of 2013 or his recent trips to see the Cowboys, the Republican has been a controversial figure, and even more so because of his respect for President Barack Obama.

His latest brush with scandal looks worse because Christie has previously cut deals for the NFL. He gave the league tax breaks to secure the Super Bowl there last year. He then cited the state’s ethics rules to prevent other New Jersey officials from getting special access to game tickets.”

Can we re-play that down again?

There is some interesting maneuvering around Gov. Christie’s visit to the Cowboys.

“The governor’s office cited The Code of Conduct for the Governor, adopted under former Gov. Jim McGreevey, in Executive Order 77, which states the governor ‘may accept gifts, favors, services, gratuities, meals, lodging or travel expenses from relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds.’”

I can understand that, I suppose and the article also states:

“The ethics rules prohibit government officials from accepting any gifts related to their ‘official duties.’ And that’s what Christie’s staff is using as a defense, that he was not at the game as a New Jersey state official, but as a lifelong Cowboys fan and guest of the team owner.”

Here is where I begin to have some problems.

Granted, Chris Christie is a fan. I’m a fan as well. I sit in the nose-bleed seats and Chris Christie sits in the owner’s box. I am not a presidential hopeful; he is.

Chris Christie has been to three games this season. It can’t be cheap to fly the Governor here and there and to pick up his tabs. As a taxpayer I can’t help but wonder. A one-time trip I guess I can accept, but three times? I started to wonder, “What are the two of you talking about? Are there some wheels in play?”

We know that the Governor cut the NFL some tax deals so that New Jersey could host last year’s Super Bowl. We also know that Jerry Jones is Chairman of the NFL Network Committee. My mind races; could Chris Christie have some influence in high places to help the NFL?

Even stranger; after Christie cut a deal with the NFL to reduce their taxes as part of the Super Bowl award, he prevented other New Jersey politicians from scoring tickets as he said it would be an ethics violation. It is almost as though he wanted the NFL to serve as his private little pet project.

Gray doesn’t work

The problem with dwelling in the gray area is that people like us (voters) are uncertain where the behaviors might lead. For example, suppose Chris Christie were to get defeated the next time he runs for office, and he winds up a month later assuming an executive position with the NFL? Or let us work the reverse; suppose Chris Christie becomes a cabinet member or higher and he hires one of Jerry Jones’ relatives?

All of this is theoretical, of course and in truth, I really have no axe to grind against Chris Christie or Jerry Jones. However, I think about their friendship, I can well reflect on associations I have known between executives and suppliers or between sales managers and purchasing agents. Each time there was a deal or the promise of a deal, there was frequently a huge amount of doubt. The relationships cast mistrust even though it was always defended as being innocent.

At the end of the day, Chris Christie makes more than enough money to pay for his own tickets and travel, thank you. He can root for Dallas or Buffalo or Oakland or for anyone else for that matter. However when this potential presidential candidate gets wined and dined by a team owner the gray-area stuff begins to creep into play.

It is just not worth it.

 

Posted by Chuck Gallagher in Business and Personal Ethics, business ethics, Political Ethics, politics, Sports Ethics and tagged , , , , , , , .

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