New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has become a darling of the political press with his scathing attacks on public sector workers. It turns out, however, that when Christie himself was a public sector worker he enjoyed gold-plated compensation in the form of illegally expensive hotel rooms:
According to the report’s review of reimbursements made between 2009 and 2009, “Attorney C” submitted 23 expense reports that included lodging costs. Of those, 15 exceeded the government lodging rate and 14 gave insufficient justifications, the report said. The 14 expense reports totaled $2,176, the report said.
“In terms of the percentage of travel, U.S. Attorney C[hris Christie] was the U.S. Attorney who most often exceeded the government rate without adequate justification,” the report concluded.
A stay at Boston’s boutique Nine Zero Hotel cost taxpayers $449 per night, more than double the government’s reimbursement rate for the city, the report said. Christie’s secretary told investigators it was a “coincidence” that he attended meetings in the same hotel. A stay at Washington, D.C.’s Four Seasons hotel cost $475 per night, more than double the $233 per night reimbursement rate. Christie stayed at the Georgetown hotel because he had to give an early morning speech there, according to the justification memo included with his expense report.
The point here isn’t that Christie’s defenses of living the high life on the government dime are absurd. On the contrary. The points he’s raising are perfectly reasonable. By overspending, Christie was able to make his life much more convenient for himself than it otherwise might be. Staying at a cheap hotel, waking up super-early, and taking a cab down to Georgetown would have been way less pleasant than spending the night at the Four Seasons. And the pleasantness of the job of US Attorney is relevant to the government’s ability to attract talent. And I take it that Christie thinks having talented people working as US Attorneys is important to public welfare.
Of course this is all debatable. Maybe people take US Attorney gigs because it’s a good stepping-stone into higher political office. Maybe Christie-level talents would take the gig under any non-horrible compensation scheme since the real reward is the opportunity to run for Governor of New Jersey. So maybe the spending is genuinely wasteful. Or maybe the work of US Attorneys is actually totally unimportant and reducing the quality of people taking those jobs would be very low cost. Either way, there’s a debate to be had that requires some examination of the actual situation and not lazy lashing out at fat-cat bureaucrats staying at the Four Seasons at taxpayer expense.