After weeks of pre-campaign jaunts to New Hampshire, Chris Christie pivoted earlier this week to Ohio, arguably the most important swing state in the country for Republicans looking to take the White House.
But the New Jersey governor, who's slated to announce later this month his intention to run for president, didn't travel there for any town-hall meeting or casual diner drop-in to woo the state's purple-tinged voters. Instead, after attending an event in New Hampshire earlier on Tuesday, Christie traveled to Cleveland for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, which resume Thursday night.
As several eagle-eyed live tweeters pointed out Tuesday evening, Christie watched the home-team Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 96-91 in almost-courtside seats, just behind the Cavs' bench. The governor—who's previously said he's a New York Knicks fan—was seated next to Urban Meyer, head football coach of Ohio State University, and near the Cleveland Browns' Joe Haden.
Christie's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment about why he attended the game and who paid for his ticket and travel to the game. The most expensive floor seats in the arena were going for tens of thousands of dollars on secondary ticket markets just ahead of the contest.
It might seem trivial to inquire with a sitting governor about his game-watching, but Christie and sports haven't been a lucky combination, optics-wise, in the last several months. In May, New Jersey Watchdog reported that in 2010 and 2011 Christie spent more than $80,000 in taxpayer funds on concessions at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, where the Jets and Giants play. The money came out of Christie's $95,000 annual expense advance, which is used "for official reception on behalf of the state, operation of an official residence, and other expenses." The Christie administration defended the spending, and the New Jersey Republican State Committee later paid back the funds to the state treasury. Christie's admission to the games is typically free of charge.
And over the winter, Christie drew criticism for attending about a half-dozen Dallas Cowboys games. His alleged infractions, ranging from the farcical to the actual, included: his lifelong fandom of that team over NFL squads in his own New Jersey backyard, like the Giants or Jets; hugging Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after a particularly exciting Dallas win; and letting Jones pay for Christie's and his family's airfare to the aforementioned game. Ethics concerns were raised about Jones' funding of the trip. Jones and Christie are friends, but a company Jones has invested in has business dealings with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which is co-controlled by Christie's administration. The head of the state ethics commission has said Jones' funding did not seem to go against New Jersey ethics laws.
If, by chance, the governor finds himself in need of a local, cheap alternative to take in some sports in the future, he need look no further than the New Jersey state capital: The Trenton Thunder minor-league baseball team has luxury suites available starting at $875, with 25 tickets and snacks included in each package. And a single, just-behind-home-plate ticket? About $12.