Critics pile on NJ Gov. Christie over Cowboys tickets

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. -- Critics of Gov. Chris Christie are piling on after his office revealed that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been paying for the potential 2016 candidate to watch the team play from his box.

A Wall Street Journal story published Tuesday revealed the Cowboys are part owners of Legends Hospitality, the operator of the soon-to-open observatory at One World Trade Center. The new skyscraper is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo jointly control.

Christie's office says the gifts are permitted under an executive order that allows governors to accept gifts from "relatives or personal friends that are paid for with personal funds."

But Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the joint legislative committee that led an investigation into the George Washington Bridge scandal, said the arrangement looks "very suspicious." He said he and co-chair Loretta Weinberg had discussed the issue and were considering "whether the committee wants to look into this with our official authority."

"I think that this is precisely the type of behavior that is within the jurisdiction of the committee's scope of authority," he said.

Assembly Democratic Spokesman Tom Hester, however, said there is no plan for a legislative investigation. He said the issue is under the jurisdiction of the Jersey State Ethics Commission.

Meanwhile, a group run by Democratic operatives, American Democracy Legal Fund, filed an ethics complaint with the commission over whether Christie had violated state ethics rules.

Christie's office dismissed the criticism.

"Is anyone surprised pro-Hilary PACs like American Bridge and partisan organizations like the DNC are using the Governor's support of a football team for a political hit?" said a Christie spokeswoman in a statement, referring to other groups that weighed in.

A Port Authority spokesman said the Legends Hospitality lease agreement "was the result of a highly competitive procurement process" and that Legends was "the highest value proposer from among six qualified respondents."