The top 50 political donors gave more than $440 million to the people and groups pushing candidates for state office in 2014, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Here’s a look at who the kingmakers were.
The top 50 political donors gave more than $440 million to the people and groups pushing candidates for state office in 2014, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. Here’s a look at who the kingmakers were.
If money is influence, the Republican Governors Association wielded more of it than anyone else last year in state elections nationwide.
The group, led in 2014 by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, gave roughly $69 million to candidates, political parties and independent groups — more than double its Democratic counterpart — as it tried to elect Republicans to the top office in as many states as possible. The group gave more than any other donor to state-level elections last year — from races for governor to legislator to supreme court justice.
The association applied an effective strategy that’s becoming more common: giving money using multiple paths to circumvent limits on campaign contributions to candidates and parties, a Center for Public Integrity analysis has found.
In addition to the money it spent directly on TV ads and other campaign efforts, the group gave about $14 million to candidates including Illinois’ new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. It also gave more than $3 million to state parties, including those in Texas and Maine.
The bulk of the checks it wrote, however, totaling about $50 million, went to other political groups that in turn spent the money on state races.
Its efforts largely paid off. Republicans gained four governorships in 2014 and only lost two, leaving them holding the reins in 31 states.
The group “was designed to supplement what candidates could do on their own in the states,” said Dick Thornburgh, a former Pennsylvania governor who turned the association into a powerhouse in the mid-1980s. “Obviously, it’s grown beyond that.”
Its competitor, the Democratic Governors Association, gave $32 million and ranked second among the sugar daddies of 2014, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis. The group only picked up one new governor’s mansion, with Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf defeating incumbent Republican Tom Corbett. (Alaska’s Republican incumbent was beaten by an independent, Bill Walker.)
Together, the two governors’ groups and other national political organizations gave significantly more than political parties, unions, multimillionaires or corporations that also contributed heavily to influence state-level campaigns. The donations went beyond races for governor. The funds made their way into lower-ballot contests such as attorney general, state supreme court justice and state legislator.
The national groups also cropped up on the lists of the biggest donors in most states, outgiving homegrown political players in a sign that all politics may now be national.
In all, the top 50 political givers spread more than $440 million to the people and groups pushing candidates for state office, the Center for Public Integrity found. The list is thick with billionaires such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and corporations such as telecom titan AT&T Inc.
They also were more successful in backing winners than most donors, becoming the de facto kingmakers of state politics.
“It’s an amazing amount of power concentrated in a handful of organizations,” said Ed Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics that collected some of the data used for the analysis. “If people want to understand why government is dysfunctional, you don’t have to look much farther than this list.”
The Citizens United effect
To identify the kingmakers, the Center for Public Integrity looked at donations given to 2014 state candidates and political parties during 2013 and 2014, as tracked by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Reporters also collected state and federal contribution records for 140 independent organizations that aired political TV ads during 2014 state elections.
The analysis does not include funders of groups that don’t disclose their donors to any state or federal agencies — so-called “dark money” groups. And it does not total overall contributions, because some donors received money from other donors on the list. [More details on the methodology.]
The findings paint a picture of independent groups playing a bigger role in financing state-level elections than even political parties or the candidates’ campaigns, one effect of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The 2010 ruling allowed many groups to accept and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and wealthy patrons to influence elections as long as they did not coordinate with the candidates. Thus, they could bypass limits on giving to a candidate or political party and leapfrog ahead.
The top 50 donors identified by the Center for Public Integrity gave more than 40 percent of their contributions to independent political groups, surpassing what they gave to either candidates or political parties.
The strategy allows donors to multiply their influence, said Larry Noble, former general counsel of the FEC who now works as an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center.
“You give the maximum to the candidates, but then you want to give more,” he said. “You give to the party committee that’s also going to support the candidate. You give to outside groups that are also going to support the candidate.”
The mega-donors thus control more of the political messages that determine which issues are central to the campaign — roles previously played by candidates and political parties. And in exchange, they may expect the newly elected officials to dance with the ones that brought them.
Behind the curtain
National political groups have their own heavy-hitting donors. But because the groups function as the middlemen of political giving, voters often don’t know the original source of the cash behind a politician’s election.
The Republican Governors Association, for one, served as a conduit for billionaires and corporations looking to influence governors’ races.
The five largest contributors behind the group’s gargantuan giving power all appear separately on the Center for Public Integrity’s top 50 donor list: Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; billionaire David Koch, who runs the Kansas-based Koch Industries with his brother; electricity giant Duke Energy; investment firm ETC Capital, whose founder, Manoj Bhargava, also founded the company behind the 5-Hour Energy drink; and billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, according to IRS records from 2013 and 2014.
Meanwhile, four of the five largest contributors to the counterpart Democratic Governors Association were also familiar names from the top 50 list: Michael Bloomberg and branches of three labor unions — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union.
The Republican and Democratic governors’ associations employ another common strategy that both amplifies and obfuscates their giving: contributing to “an outside group with a good-sounding name” to make support of a candidate look more diverse and to help attract different constituencies, Noble said.
For example, state records collected by the Center for Public Integrity show that the Democratic Governors Association gave more than $6 million to a group called Making Colorado Great, while the Republican Governors Association gave nearly $5.5 million to Grow Connecticut. The Colorado and Connecticut organizations then spent millions airing TV ads in their states’ respective gubernatorial contests.
“It’s name branding,” Noble said. “If you were a teacher and you see an ad from a teachers union, you’re going to give it a lot more credibility than an ad from the DGA.”
Diverse giving becomes trendy
All but a handful of the top 50 mega-donors used more than one avenue to spread their gifts. And most gave money to influence races in more than one state.
Billionaire hedge-fund manager Kenneth Griffin, for example, gave more than $4.6 million before the election to the campaign committee of Rauner, the Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Worth about $5.5 billion, according to Forbes, Griffin and his soon-to-be ex-wife Anne also gave at least $2.2 million to independent political groups that backed state candidates, such as the Republican Governors Association, and more than $500,000 to state GOP parties in Illinois and Florida.
A representative for Griffin declined to comment.
Some of the top donors also gave widely. Sixteen of the top 50 contributors gave to 50 or more state-level candidates running in 2014.
Getting what they paid for
Nearly 85 percent of the candidates backed directly by the top 50 donors won their elections in 2014, a far better success rate than the typical political contributor, who backed winners only 52 percent of the time.
Duke Energy, for example, had a 94 percent success rate after supporting 381 different candidates.
For corporations, in particular, political giving is a way to ensure a seat at the table once a lawmaker is elected, said Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt. Giving across the aisle improves their odds of having an ally in office come January.
“They’ll give to the incumbent and also the challenger just in case the challenger wins,” Levitt said. “They’ll give more to leadership positions because leadership positions are gateways to access for committees, for legislation, for broader regulation.”
Mass media giant Comcast picked winners in 93 percent of the more than 1,000 candidates it backed. It gave nearly $1.7 million directly to candidates, spreading it widely in 36 states.
“The contributions that the company makes are because we operate in a highly regulated industry,” said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice, adding that most candidates backed are incumbents. “The decisions that are made by legislatures control our business.”
In addition to its national giving, the Philadelphia-based Comcast gave heavily in its home state. Top recipients were Gov. Tom Corbett and running mate Jim Cawley, both Republicans, who together raked in $107,000 from the state’s top broadband provider but lost re-election. Hedging its bet, Comcast also gave $1,000 to Wolf, who won the governorship from Corbett.
Duke Energy, another company regulated by states, divvied up more than $500,000 among the hundreds of candidates it backed, many of whom ran for office in North Carolina, where the company is headquartered.
Additionally, the electric utility donated more than $210,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Duke Energy may have been trying to boost its support in the Sunshine State, where it has faced massive criticism for charging customer fees for nuclear plants that do not — and may never — provide power. Florida’s governor and legislature are responsible for naming the members of the commission that regulates the utility and allows such fees.
“We do not make contribution decisions on single issues,” Duke Energy spokesman Chad Eaton said. “Our employee-led PAC considers an array of issues before any decisions are made.”
In general, he said, Duke Energy donates to candidates who demonstrate “support for public policy issues that are important to our business, customers and communities” in the six states where it provides electricity.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, meanwhile, gave nearly $2.7 million to 568 candidates in 34 states and had a 64 percent win rate. It contributed more than half million dollars to Democrat Pat Quinn’s failed bid to retain the Illinois governorship, but saw more success with the $410,000 it gave to Wolf’s successful run for governor in Pennsylvania. In both states, the Republican opposition had supported scaling back public pensions or preventing unions from deducting union dues directly from members’ paychecks.
Money does not always guarantee a win, of course, and a lack of funds doesn’t necessarily foretell a loss.
In Maryland’s governor’s race, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat, outraised Republican Larry Hogan several times over yet lost in one of the biggest upsets of election night. Brown was hurt by low popularity ratings that no giant war chest could fix, according to Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. And because Hogan accepted public funds for his campaign, he was limited on how much money he could spend yet also freed up to spend time on the campaign trail, not the fundraising one.
And some of the top benefactors saw little return on their campaign investments.
Billionaire physicist Charles Munger Jr., son of the Berkshire Hathaway executive of the same name, gave nearly $300,000 to 45 Republican candidates in 2014. Only 13 won for a 29 percent success rate.
The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, also fared poorly when backing candidates directly — only three of their 13 candidates won.
Allies in office
Most of the more than 6,300 state officials elected in November began work this month, shaping and creating policy across the country in 50 governors’ mansions and 99 legislative chambers — 11 of which flipped from Democratic to Republican control in the 2014 election.
For some big donors, that means the candidates they backed can now fight for their causes in state office. Or they might just be more willing to take a phone call from a benefactor who has a legislative wish list.
Noble said candidates typically know which donors they have to thank for their success — even when patrons filter their donations through independent groups.
And now, for some top givers, the real campaigning is about to begin.
Rauner, the newly sworn-in Republican governor, for one, is already gearing up for battles with the veto-proof Democratic-controlled legislature in Illinois as he pushes his stated goals of plugging the state’s budget deficit and strengthening ethics laws. He isn’t just counting on good will or smooth talking to win over potentially reluctant legislators. He’s counting on cold, hard cash to help make the case.
Rauner and two top donors, Griffin and shipping supply magnate Richard Uihlein, poured $20 million into the governor’s campaign committee in the final two days of 2014, which Rauner reportedly plans to use to back other candidates who support his policies.
Rauner’s new war chest will enable the new governor to be in a state of “perpetual campaign” — to air commercials aimed at persuading state legislators or to donate to other lawmakers’ re-election campaigns in exchange for support of Rauner’s agenda, said Christopher Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
In the past, a governor might have promised state legislators financial backing for development projects in their districts or helped them acquire contracts or new jobs.
“Instead of building somebody a playground in the school, he’ll be able to donate money to their campaign,” Mooney said.
And if they don’t do want he wants? “He’ll be able to fund an opponent,” he said.
Long before the campaign buttons and bumper stickers, today’s presidential candidates must create an outside fundraising committee. And while they aren’t always in total control of these groups, the names can be secret decoder rings that explain the central themes of the campaigns they are preparing.
Here’s a look at the names of five groups backing 2016 candidates and what they might signal.
Right to Rise
What is it? A leadership PAC and a separate super PAC
Who does it benefit? Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida
Where does the name come from? The “right to rise” was coined by a historian to describe President Lincoln’s views on economic opportunity. After Rep. Paul Ryan used the phrase, Bush wrote a guest editorial about it in the Wall Street Journal in 2011.
What’s it mean? The name is a sign that Bush intends to focus on pocketbook issues for the middle class, which has been stuck with stagnant wages for more than a decade. The fact he embraced the term was also a key tipoff that Ryan was not going to run.
Our American Revival
What is it? A tax-exempt 527 organization
Who does it benefit? Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin
Where does the name come from? Walker used the phrase “our American revival” in a recent statement critiquing President Obama’s State of the Union speech.
What’s it mean? The term “revival” has religious undertones that Walker, a preacher’s kid, surely recognizes. It’s also a sign he intends to run as a bold, populist counterpoint to Obama’s tenure in Washington.
Leadership Matters for America
What is it? A political action committee
Who does it benefit? Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey
Where does the name come from? Christie used the phrase “leadership matters” during his 2012 keynote speech at the Republican presidential convention for Mitt Romney.
What’s it mean? Christie is running on his own personality and leadership style. He intends to highlight his time as governor as well as his brash and sometimes confrontational style to contrast himself with Obama and his Republican opponents.
Stand for Principle
What is it? A super PAC
Who does it benefit? Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas
Where does the name come from? In a 2014 speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, Cruz argued that Republicans need to “stand for principle” in order to win elections.
What’s it mean? Cruz intends to run as the conservative choice among the Republican field, with an orthodoxy at the center of his message that will contrast him against past nominees such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, not to mention current contenders like Christie and Bush.
Ready for Hillary
What is it? A super PAC
Who does it benefit? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Where does the name come from? The super PAC was formed by Clinton supporters to build lists of grassroots supporters and recruit major donors before she announced a campaign.
What’s it mean? The name doesn’t portend much about Clinton’s campaign, since she didn’t choose it, at least not personally. But it does take on a central theme of the emerging Clinton juggernaut—the notion that America is now “ready” for a female president and that it’s Clinton’s turn after her 2008 primary loss.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched a federal political action committee, or PAC, Monday as he seeks to lay the groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential campaign.
The new group, Leadership Matters for America PAC, will allow the 52-year-old to travel the country to raise money and support like-minded politicians, but it can’t specifically advocate on his behalf. The launch comes two days after Christie appeared at a conservative cattle call in Iowa, where he sought to prove he could reach out to a skeptical party base.
The PAC’s website features a smiling Christie holding court at one of his signature town halls, and its mission statement hews closely to Christie’s rapidly developing stump speech. News of the PAC’s formation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us,” it states. “Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America’s role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”
Former Republican National Committee Finance chairman Ray Washburne, who announced earlier this month he would step down to take a position with Christie, will hold the same role for the new group. Former Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox and longtime Christie strategist Mike DuHaime will serve as political advisers. Matt Mowers, the outgoing New Hampshire GOP executive director, and Phil Valenziano, a former aide to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, will be the PAC’s on-the-ground presence in those two presidential early states.
Earlier this month, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush launched a leadership PAC and a super PAC in preparation for his presidential run. Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well.
Christie is set to return to Iowa on Feb. 9 to address the Dallas County Republican Party, and has planned trips across the country in coming weeks to fundraise and boost his political profile. He is not expected to make a final decision on his candidacy until the spring.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brought a clear message to skeptical Iowa conservatives Saturday: We may not always agree, but you can work with me.
Christie spoke toward the end of a daylong 2016 presidential cattle call hosted by Iowa Representative Steve King, highlighting his fights with unions in his home state and his pro-life stance on abortion. Christie’s participation in the event turned heads, given King’s hard-line position on immigration and the audience’s more conservative bent. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both skipped the event on account of scheduling issues, and proved to be frequent targets on stage from other would-be candidates and activists.
Christie has spent years trying to reach across the aisle in preparation for a presidential run but has been dogged by questions whether he could win over the party’s base.
“I have heard and read all the conventional wisdom that somehow a guy from New Jersey would not be welcomed or understood at the Iowa Freedom Summit — that somehow I’m too loud, I’m too blunt, and I’m too direct,” Christie said, as the crowd chuckled. “The conventional wisdom from Washington, D.C., that says we aren’t friends … They’re wrong again today.”
King used his introduction to boost Christie’s conservative credentials. “He vetoed the gay-marriage bill in New jersey,” he said. “He is pro-life.” Christie has since declared gay marriage a “settled” issue in his state after the state supreme court declined to stop same-sex unions in 2013.
Speaking calmly and slowly, Christie was self-effacing about “the blunt New Jersey stuff,” using it to introduce himself to Iowa voters with the story of his childhood.
“In a trusting relationship, you need to tell people what you really believe and what you’re thinking,” he said, noting he’s sure that not everyone would agree with him on every issue. “You’ll always know who I am, you’ll always know what I believe, and you’ll always know where I stand.”
He argued that if the party is looking for purity, “we will never win another national election. Ever.”
Reading off prepared remarks, Christie’s speech was an amalgamation of his notable addresses of the past several years, presenting the clearest preview of a full-fledged presidential stump speech.
“The next century does not have to be a Chinese century,” he said, calling for stronger American leadership overseas. “The world can’t do without a second American century.” His opposition to abortion was juxtaposed with his efforts in improving his state’s drug treatment programs to be “pro-life” at all stages of life.
He highlighted his electoral success in his blue home state, noting he won Hispanic voters and made inroads with black voters in his last election.
“We need a coalition that covers all parts of the country, all ethnicities, a coalition that is comprised at its core of our proud, yet underserved and underrepresented working class in this nation,” he said, in an implicit critique of former Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. He even alluded to growing income inequality, adding, “The rich are doing fine, that’s great. We don’t demonize the wealthy like so many folks in the Democratic Party, but nor should we cater to the wealthy at the expense of our middle-income workers and the working poor who are the backbone of every American community.”
Christie’s reception paled in comparison to Senator Ted Cruz, whose faith-themed address was red meat for the audience. But Christie accomplished what he sought out: demonstrating he is unafraid to appear before social conservatives and proving that he could even earn a standing ovation. In a crowded field where he will hope to have the support of the party’s establishment, that may be enough to go the distance.
Of the 1,100 gifts Chris Christie has received from the public since taking office five years ago, 600 are books, 77 of which are about diet, weight loss, exercise or bariatric surgery.
The gifts include CDs, DVDs and kits, NJ.com reports, and they come from authors and readers alike. Even Dr. Mehmet Oz sent the New Jersey governor a copy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live.
While Christie has thanked supporters who’ve noticed his weight loss since his bariatric surgery two years ago, he prefers to keep the topic of his size a private matter. We’re guessing not all 77 of these titles have a permanent home on the Christies’ bookshelves.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivered his fifth State of the State address Tuesday, but it sounded more like a presidential announcement.
Less than two years away from Election Day, Christie sent his firmest signal yet that he intends to run for the White House in 2016, with a decidedly national theme, coming off a 2014 spent traveling the country on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidates. “We need a New Jersey renewal and we need an American renewal,” Christie declared several months before he is expected to make his candidacy official.
The speech comes a day after Christie secured the backing of former Republican National Committee Finance Chair Ray Washburne for his future presidential campaign and a day before Christie is scheduled to attend a meet-and-greet with donors in South Carolina, a presidential early state.
Teasing at a possible presidential campaign theme, Christie says what he saw across the country during his travels was “a nation beset by anxiety.”
“It is understandable,” Christie said, delivering an implicit critique of the Obama administration. “Economic growth is low by post-war recovery standards. America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency.”
“We need to address this anxiety head on,” he continued. “We need to renew the spirit and the hopes of our state, our country and our people.”
Christie’s remarks contrast his leadership of New Jersey with the “Washington way,” hailing his own conservative record of opposing tax increases and holding up his leadership of the state as a model for the nation.
The governor devoted much of his address to highlighting his efforts to tackle drug addiction and mental health in the state, announcing the creation of a statewide call number to allow those in need with a one-stop access to services. He also marked a longstanding effort to turn around the long-blighted city of Camden, which has seen a surge in public and private investment under Christie after decades of decline.
The address coincides with a drop in Christie’s approval rating in the state as he eyes higher office. Christie sought to cast his state’s economic progress in a positive light, pointing to a declining unemployment rate and balanced budget, even as its reality is far murkier. The governor avoided discussing efforts to confront fiscal turmoil in Atlantic City and avoided specifics on dealing with mounting pension costs that have caused repeated credit downgrades.
The presidential hopeful briefly alluded to the ongoing drama surrounding the politically-motivated closure of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge by Christie aides in 2013. Christie has denied wrongdoing, but a federal probe into the incident continues. “In a year with plenty of politics from some overly partisan corners of this chamber, New Jersey has made progress,” Christie said.
Illustrating the out-of-state focus of the speech, Christie met off the record with national reporters before his address, leaving out members of his state press corps.
In a web video posted Tuesday to coincide with the address, the Democratic National Committee mocked Christie’s record and presidential ambitions.
The 2016 Republican presidential primary heated up a little more today as Scott Walker took a populist shot at Chris Christie over football.
Despite being governor of New Jersey, Christie is a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys and took some criticism for an enthusiastic bear hug of team owner Jerry Jones after the Cowboys’ playoff victory Sunday.
Walker didn’t criticize Christie’s choice of teams, per se, but he did take an indirect dig at the fact that he was in the owners’ box after flying to the game on a private jet paid for by the team owner:
As head of the Republican Governors Association, Christie campaigned in Wisconsin for Walker’s re-election in September, though now that both governors are gunning for the same outside-Washington slot in the 2016 primary, it looks like the gloves are going to come off.
What’s a little lawsuit between best buds?
There’s plenty to poke fun at while watching the bromance between Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his good luck charm, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, play out on national television and all those subsequent Vines. The sweater. The unreciprocated hug. The fact that Christie, a lifelong Cowboys fan, runs a state stocked with fans of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, who all hate America’s team.
But there’s something else that’s funny about the Jones-Christie pairing, something that most fans are probably missing. Jones, an NFL owner, is whooping it up with a man who the league is actually suing.
Well, maybe funny is the wrong word. “It’s definitely weird,” says Ryan Rodenberg, a sports law professor at Florida State University who has closely followed Christie’s attempts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey, despite the legal complaints of the NFL and other major sports leagues. In October, the NFL — along with the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, and the NCAA, sued Christie and two other New Jersey officials, arguing that the state’s plan to move forward with sports gambling violated a 1992 federal law that bans it in every state except for Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. A federal judge agreed, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals is now taking up the case.
Christie and betting proponents argue that sports books could increase revenues and create jobs, particularly in struggling Atlantic City. The league argued that legalized betting can cause “irreparable harm,” i.e. participants have more incentives to fix games, even though such opportunities have already long existed in the underground betting market. (NBA commissioner Adam Silver has already called for the legalization of sports betting, through a federal law change. He says he still opposes New Jersey’s attempt to circumvent the current statute).
Is all this palling around between Jones and Christie appropriate, given the legal fight? “Maybe it’s just the way business is done at that echelon, people don’t take things personally,” says Rodenberg. “It’s not something I can relate to.” A New Jersey taxpayer can look at it this way: my governor is high-fiving a major shareholder of an entity that’s trying to squash legislation that will benefit my state economically. The NFL can look at this way: one of our most high-profile owners is celebrating with a man who’s trying to bring us irreparable harm.
But Jones himself isn’t suing Christie. The NFL league office in New York, along with the other leagues, brought the suit forward: the NFL did not put the proposed litigation to an owner’s vote. (A Cowboys spokesman did not return a request for comment. A Christie spokesman declined to comment.) And even Raymond Lesniak, a Democratic state senator in New Jersey and self-described Christie critic, excuses the governor’s behavior, chalking it up to sports fandom. Lesniak, who’s been trying to get sports betting legislation passed for six years, is more bothered by Christie accepting a free ticket to Dallas from Jones after the Port Authority, which is controlled by Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — and whose ethics have been questioned in Bridgegate — awarded a contract to operate the One World Trade Center observatory to a company partly owned by the Cowboys. He’s peeved that the NFL is fighting sports betting in New Jersey, even though it staged three games this season in London, where betting parlors dot the streets like Starbucks.
Lesniak, however, goes to New York Giants games and supports the team, even though he doesn’t support the league’s policies. So he won’t bash the governor for living a fan’s fantasy. “I’ll give him a pass,” Lesniak says. “And I don’t give him a pass often.”
Jones wants Christie in Green Bay on Sunday, for Dallas’ next playoff game: the Cowboys are 5-0 in games Christie has attended this season. “He’s part of our mojo,” Jones said. As of Tuesday evening, Christie still had not decided whether he’d make the trip. Safe bet: if Christie has any ambitions of taking Texas in 2016, he’ll be living it up in Lambeau.
What were they thinking?
When Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin were exchanging their now infamous emails, leaked in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hacking scandal, they clearly weren’t worried about what would happen to their careers if anyone else read their notes.
You have to wonder why not: Companies routinely monitor worker communications. Email is regularly used as evidence in lawsuits and criminal investigations. Now hacking is another threat. Email isn’t private. Everyone knows that.
Pascal, who climbed the ranks at Sony Pictures Entertainment to become co-chairman, and Rudin, an Oscar-winning movie producer, are not stupid people. Yet they are just the latest example of high-profile executives who send email without a thought about what would happen if the outside world read them.
Remember David Petraeus, the four-star general and CIA director who resigned from his job after an FBI investigation inadvertently turned up emails that exposed an extramarital affair? Ironically, Petraeus didn’t even send the emails. He wrote them and saved them to his drafts folder. He and his girlfriend shared the password and simply logged in to read the drafts.
Then there’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who fired his chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly after it was revealed that she sent emails joking about traffic tie-ups caused by lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. The closures, an alleged retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie’s bid for governor, spawned a scandal that continues to affect Christie’s presidential prospects.
And most recently, a Harvard business school professor publicly apologized last week for an epic email rant that went viral, in which he threatened to sic the authorities on a local Chinese food restaurant that allegedly overcharged him $4 for a dinner delivery.
Even though senders should know better, “there’s an illusion of privacy, because the truth is, most of us haven’t been hacked or even know if higher-ups are reading our email,” says Dana Brownlee, president of Professionalism Matters. When it comes to successful people, she says, ego often trumps common sense. “Those with power often reach a point where they let their guard down because they feel somewhat invincible.”
It’s a trap that any of us can easily fall into, particularly in today’s time-crunched workplace, where it’s often easier to shoot off an email or text rather than pick up the phone—or, better still, walk down the hall—to discuss a sensitive issue. “We all have to be really careful about using email almost exclusively to communicate,” Brownlee says. “It’s dangerous.”
Brownlee suggests giving yourself this simple test: How comfortable would you be if your boss, a co-worker or the person you are writing about read it? Not sure? Don’t send it.
“Warning flags truly should go off in your head any time you prepare to hit send on anything you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the paper,” says Brownlee. “Save the jokes and snarky or personal stuff for one-on-one time. You’ll be glad you did.”