In early May, Gov. Chris Christie arrived at the Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey for a political fund-raiser. Donors, many of them longtime backers of his, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and views of the Lower Manhattan skyline while he spoke of the important work to be done on issues like jobs and the economy.
Not a single check was written to Mr. Christie’s campaign. Indeed, some of those in attendance were legally prohibited from doing so, because they had sizable contracts with state agencies and were therefore barred by New Jersey law from making large contributions to the governor.
Instead, the donors wrote checks for as much as $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an organization Mr. Christie helps lead that has collected $1.65 million from New Jersey donors during the first six months of the year.
The association has, in turn, poured $1.7 million into Mr. Christie’s re-election effort, with television advertisements attacking State Senator Barbara Buono, his Democratic opponent in the election this year.
Mr. Christie’s close relationship with the association provides a playbook for how carefully choreographed independent spending campaigns can undermine the rules meant to curtail the political influence of government contractors; New Jersey’s pay-to-play law strictly limits the participation of state contractors in political giving.
According to an analysis by The New York Times, a third of the $1.65 million the association raised in New Jersey came from people and businesses who had significant contracts with the state, or from utilities, which are prohibited from making any contributions to candidates for governor.