Politics & Elections

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie allowed to fundraise for legal fees

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
chris christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a crowd in this photo provided by the Associated Press.

New Jersey campaign finance regulators on Tuesday gave Gov. Chris Christie's re-election campaign permission to resume raising money and spend it on legal fees stemming from two investigations into a political retribution scandal.

But it came with conditions that the funds cannot be used to pay for any staffer's legal defense.

The Election Law Enforcement Commission, down to two members because of a recusal and a vacancy, voted unanimously on a series of motions to allow the unusual request from Christie's campaign. The campaign used public matching funds last year and agreed to a spending limit of $12.2 million.

Campaign lawyer Mark Sheridan said the spending came within $13,000 of the limit, and about $126,000 remains in campaign coffers.

The commission had to determine whether campaign funds could be spent on fees associated with complying with subpoenas issued last month by a federal grand jury and a state legislative panel. Both are looking into lane closures near the George Washington Bridge.

The commission also had to decide whether Christie's campaign could continue to operate and whether to exempt the expenditures from spending caps for campaigns that accept public financing.

The commission agreed to all three, with some conditions.

The money can be used to produce the requested documents but not for legal defense. If the campaign needs more donations, individuals will still be limited to giving no more than $3,800 for the entire election cycle. If additional money is raised but not used on legal compliance, it must be turned over to the state government to repay matching funds.

Sheridan hopes the money left in the campaign coffers will be enough to pay the legal and data retrieval costs of complying with the subpoenas, which cover communications involving about 50 campaign staff workers.

Also Tuesday, about a dozen people gathered at a spot overlooking the George Washington Bridge to call for Christie's resignation, saying the plot to close approach lanes and cause massive gridlock in the town was an abuse of power.

New Jersey State Police also said Tuesday that Christie did not fly in a state helicopter over the Fort Lee traffic jams in September. The statement came a day after the state legislative investigative committee requested records that could show whether he made such a flight. Christie, who spoke at an event in Chicago on Tuesday, maintains he did now know about the scheme until after it was over.

After the ELEC meeting, Sheridan was asked about what the election campaign would do if Christie were identified as the target of the investigation.

"I don't think there's a chance of that happening," Sheridan said.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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new jersey politics, chris christie, george washington bridge, fort lee, new jersey, new jersey news, david wildstein, bridget anne kelly, port authority, mark sokolich, bridgegate, politics & elections
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