ABC's Amy Walter (@amyewalter) reports:
Blunt-talking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has made ethics and government reform a centerpiece of his Administration, raised some eyebrows yesterday with his decision to take a state helicopter to his son's baseball game yesterday afternoon. Pictures of the helicopter landing were first posted by the Ridgewood Patch website.
Moreover, he left the game in the fifth inning, presumably to make it back to Princeton for his meeting with a group of Iowa activists who had flown to New Jersey to try to convince the governor to run for president.
According to the Newark Star Ledger the Governor landed in the $12.5 million helicopter right before the game began, and then "got into a black car with tinted windows that drove him about a 100 yards to the baseball field" His son Andrew is the starting catcher on his high school team.
Christie and First Lady Mary Pat Christie took in a few innings of play but left during the 5th inning. " During a pitching change," reported the Star Ledger, "play was stopped for a couple of minutes while the helicopter took off."
In an email to the Star Ledger, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the Governor's choice of transportation. "It is a means of transportation that is occasionally used as the schedule demands. This has historically been the case in prior administrations as well, and we continue to be judicious in limiting its use."
Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register reported this morning that while the Iowa activists were not successful at getting Christie to commit to a presidential run, he did tell the "Iowans he has accepted an invitation from Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to give the keynote address at an education summit here this summer."
The New Jersey State Troopers issued the following statement, saying that the helicopter ride did not cost taxpayers extra money because the helicopter would have been flying a "daily homeland security mission" anyway.
The statement of Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police:
Governor Christie is on duty every hour of every day. His transportation, safety and security are my responsibility, and he therefore travels with the State Police Executive Protection Unit, whether on state or personal business. As part of our long-standing security protocol, the EPU provides secure, protected travel by vehicle in the overwhelming majority of the Governor’s business and personal travel, except in those rare instances when the Governor’s schedule warrants use of air travel.
To date, Governor Christie has been aboard State Police helicopters 35 times since taking office, including aerial surveys of flood and storm damage. It is important to understand that State Police helicopters fly daily homeland security missions, and use flight time for training purposes, more so lately as we acclimate our pilots to the new aircraft. These are flight hours that would be logged in any event. Therefore, there is no additional cost to taxpayers or the State Police budget, nor is there any interference with our daily mission by adding the state’s chief executive to any of these trips. Any flights transporting the Governor would be subordinated to priority needs for our aircraft including rescue and emergent law enforcement missions.