February 13, 2015
Gov. Chris Christie to rewrite NJ law so he can get a book deal.
by Taylor Sperry
There are lots of rules about the way tax payer dollars can contribute to presidential campaigns. But Claude Brodesser-Ackner’s report for NJ.com suggests there’s something rotten in the works in New Jersey, where a pesky state law is standing in the way of the book deal Governor Chris Christie wants to accompany his bid for the 2016 GOP nomination.
For the past sixty years, every successful (and many an unsuccessful) presidential candidate has had a major book buttressing his campaign. And indeed, the first few months of 2015 will see a stampede of publications from Republican hopefuls, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiona, and Ben Carson. (Others, like Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, already have books to their names.)
According to state law, a sitting governor in New Jersey is barred from “receiving or agreeing to receive, whether directly or indirectly, any compensation, salary, honorarium, fee, or other form of income from any source, other than the compensation paid of reimbursed to him/her by the State for the performance of official duties.”
Lawmakers in Christie’s camp are working on revising the law so that the governor can profit (financially, politically) from a book deal in exchange for a boost in salaries for public officials–itself OK, but pretty shady when you consider that tax payers–regardless of affiliation–are essentially paying for the privilege of having a Chris Christie book on stands in the run-up to November, 2016.
In addition to the obvious political advantages, there’s also a lot of money at stake. With a salary of $175,000 plus a $95,000 budget for “entertaining,” Christie is the fourth-highest paid state chief executive in the country. And he stands to make at least six, but possibly seven, figures on an advance if the laws are changed. Before Obama announced his campaign for president, Crown paid him $1.9 million in a three-book deal; John McCain earned $500,000 for two books.
ICM’s Sloan Harris has been in touch with Christie’s staff, and while he declined to say whom he’d spoken to, he stated “I’ve talked to a lot of people in his camp, and I know that money–and the disposition of money–was of paramount importance to him.”
Meanwhile, legislation is still underway. In an interview with NJ Advance Media, Assemblyman John Burzichelli said “First, the book deal was in, then it was out, and last I heard it was back in . . . Maybe it gets bundled up in the final weeks of the annual budget (negotiations). That’s when a lot of wacky stuff happens.”
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.