TIME Chris Christie

Watch Joy Behar Tell Chris Christie: ‘You’re Toast’

The New Jersey governor appeared to have a sense of humor failure as the former host of The View joked about his ongoing bridge scandal

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared to lose his cool somewhat during a celebrity roast last week, as former The View host Joy Behar tossed zingers in his direction and not at the honoree.

The April 1 roast was for the 90th birthday celebration of former New Jersey governor, Brendan Byrne. Christie hosted the celebrity roast for Byrne, and he became the butt of many jokes about the George Washington Bridge scandal.

But Behar’s remarks seemed to hit home. In a video that surfaced Tuesday, Behar said that when she heard Christie had caused traffic jams, she thought: ‘What the hell is he doing, standing in the middle of the bridge?”

Christie eventually interrupted her, according to The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza, who attended the event. “This is a Byrne roast,” he said, before standing and attempting to steal her notes.

The exchange ended, Lizza reports, with a “rattled” Behar telling Christie: “I really don’t know about the Presidency. Let me put it to you this way, in a way that you’d appreciate: You’re toast.”

TIME 2016 Election

GOP Hawks Worry Rand Paul Has Too Much Ron

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks to the crowd at the Tea Party Patriots 5th anniversary conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27, 2014.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks to the crowd at the Tea Party Patriots 5th anniversary conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27, 2014. Mark Peterson—Redux

Republican donors wary of his more noninterventionist foreign policy views are promising a countercampaign to keep the Kentucky Senator and Tea Party star from securing the nomination if he rises too high for their tastes

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is hard at work laying the groundwork for an almost certain presidential campaign in 2016, but as he broadens his support among libertarian and younger voters, there’s a budding countercampaign to take him down if he becomes a threat to actually win the nomination.

At the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, Paul was nowhere to be found, but his presence was felt in the form of a straw man — and frequent worry. Speaker after speaker, from former Florida governor Jeb Bush to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, laid into Paul’s more isolationist views on foreign policy. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.

The conference brings together some of the biggest names — and wallets — in Republican politics, most notably billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his pair of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing — effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees.

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., bemoaned “a rising tide of neoisolationism within the Republican Party,” and blasted those, like Paul, who oppose throwing the book at admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as “unfit to serve.”

“America must be engaged in the world, and we should help the people who share our values,” Ohio Governor John Kasich told guests at a Saturday lunch.

To the pro-Israel crowd, Paul is viewed by many as different from his father, former Representative Ron Paul, whose positions had kept him from getting an invite to the conservative confab in prior years. Nevertheless concerns remain about the younger Paul, who was invited this year but did not attend.

“His edges aren’t as sharp as his father’s,” says Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary. “But there’s still a naiveté that’s going to be a problem. He represents a departure from something a lot of Republicans are used to.”

Rand Paul has told top GOP donors that he is “evolving” on foreign policy, particularly when it comes to his positions on Israel, according to several people who have had conversations with him. In recent months he has toned down his opposition to foreign aid — a red flag for most at the RJC — replacing it with a call to end foreign aid to countries that are unfriendly to the U.S. He has also increased his outreach to prominent pro-Israel and neoconservative thinkers and donors to show he is interested in having a dialogue. The U.S. gives more than $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel every year, almost entirely in the form of grants for Israel’s military and defense services.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, says the group is trying to “help move him along” on his transformation.

“I think, unlike his father, he is genuinely interested in reaching out to the Jewish community,” Brooks says.

But several donors who have had private conversations with Paul about his foreign policy said those talks have not assuaged their concerns. And unlike his father, whose intensely supportive base was fairly contained, they worry that Paul’s smoother approach could make him a contender. “Can he win Iowa, yes. Can he win New Hampshire, yes. Can he win the nomination, maybe — and that’s scary,” says one former Mitt Romney bundler at the conference who did not want to be named.

On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination.

“The best thing that could happen is Ted Cruz and Rand Paul run and steal each other’s support,” says one of the donors, “but if not, we’ll be ready to take Paul down.”

Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions may well put a target on his back.

“Paul hasn’t — and probably will never — win the trust of the pro-Israel community,” says Noah Pollak, executive director of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel, which ran ads against the elder Paul. “But his foreign policy problems run far deeper. His mustering of fake outrage over issues like Tomahawk-missile cuts and the persecution of Middle East Christians are a shiny-object strategy intended to contradict the correct impression that, at his core, he is more or less an isolationist.”

TIME 2016 Election

Republican Governors Vie for Adelson Support

Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition on March 29, 2014, in Las Vegas Julie Jacobson—AP

In a prelude to 2016, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and John Kasich addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in Vegas as they vie for the support of billionaire Sheldon Adelson

Three Republican governors eyeing the White House delivered similar pitches but starkly different styles to megadonor Sheldon Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Nearly two years before GOP voters begin going to the polls, the race for Adelson’s support is well at hand, bringing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich to the billionaire’s Venetian Casino to address the group. Catering to the pro-Israel crowd at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s leadership conference, they brought heavy criticism of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy to the high-dollar donor conference. The politicians also highlighted their states’ economic revivals and their personal electoral successes as models for future Republican candidates.

“We cannot have a world where our friends are unsure of whether we will be with them and our enemies are unsure of whether we will be against them,” Christie said in criticism of Obama. “In New Jersey, nobody has to wonder whether I’m for them or against them.”

With the Iranian nuclear negotiations and Russian’s annexation of Crimea as a backdrop, the three would-be Commanders in Chief emphasized the need for a “strong America again,” as Walker put it. They were united in rejecting the isolationist wing of the GOP as embodied by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a frequent target of conference speakers.

“America must be engaged in the world, and we should help the people who share our values,” Kasich said.

Walker, who spoke first, opened his address with an appeal to the largely Jewish crowd. He said he lights a “menorah candle” every year with his Christmas tree and that his son Matthew’s name derives from the Hebrew for “gift from God.” He devoted much of his address to telling stories about his efforts in Wisconsin taking on public-sector unions, but also highlighted his broad fundraising base and outreach to minority voters. When he turned to foreign policy, Walker prefaced by saying he was speaking “not as a candidate” but “as a concerned citizen.”

Christie, who has seen his GOP establishment support waver in light of the ongoing scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, found himself at home in front of the audience. He cracked jokes and repeatedly drew loud ovations with his now familiar message to the Republican Party to embrace pragmatism. “Here’s what we stand for in 2014: winning,” he said, recounting his own more successful electoral efforts to make inroads into minority communities.

Christie transfixed the donors with a long discussion of his visit to Israel two years ago, but caused a minor hubbub in the room when he referred to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as the “occupied territories.” Many of the conservative donors were concerned that phrase was pejorative toward Israel, with some voicing those concerns directly to Christie. But Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said he was convinced Christie had simply misspoken and was not outlining new policy.

Adelson was not in the room when Walker spoke, but all three governors are expected to meet privately with him this weekend. Their speeches followed former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s well-received remarks at a VIP dinner on Thursday at Adelson’s company’s private airplane hangar where he denounced “American passivity” under Obama. Adelson entered several minutes into Christie’s speech and took a reserved seat in the front row directly in front of Christie’s podium. Kasich, who spoke at a later luncheon, sat next to the casino magnate during the meal.

Kasich, who ran for President in 2000, repeatedly mentioned Adelson during his remarks, which were entirely focused on domestic policy, including an emphasis on “compassionate conservative” issues like drug addiction, charity and mental health. He opened with folky stories about his family and childhood, saying his parents could never imagine he’d be governor of Ohio. He also said creating jobs and opportunity is a “moral obligation.” Asked pointedly “What do you know about international affairs?” Kasich proceeded to give wide-ranging survey of American foreign policy challenges, noting he was a member of the House Armed Services Committee for 18 years.

For all the governors, Adelson’s support — and his seemingly unlimited bank account — could be make-or-break should they decide to run for the White House. Worth an estimated $38 billion, Adelson devoted at least $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in 2012.

“Hey, listen, Sheldon, thanks for inviting me,” Kasich said as he closed his speech, bringing his Adelson mentions into the double digits. “I don’t travel to these things much, but this was one that I thought was really, really important.”

TIME

Christie Appointee Resigns from Port Authority

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Trenton, New Jersey
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Trenton, New Jersey March 28, 2014. Mark Makela—Reuters

The N.J. governor held a press conference Friday to clear his name following the bridge scandal and announced the resignation of Port Authority Chairman David Samson. Christie said there is no indication his close ally was involved in wrongdoing

The chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey under scrutiny for conflicts of interest and embroiled in the lane closure scandal around New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie resigned Friday.

Christie, who appointed chairman David Samson in 2011, said the official had considered leaving last year and added that there was no indication that Samson was involved in wrongdoing, the AP reports. Samson, who has also come under scrutiny for his law firm’s ties to companies contracted by the Port Authority, released a statement after the announcement was made.

“Over the past months, I have shared with the Governor my desire to conclude my service to the PANYNJ,” said Samson, a former attorney general of New Jersey. “The timing is now right, and I am confident that the Governor will put new leadership in place to address the many challenges ahead.”

Christie announced the resignation of his close ally Friday at a news conference that the governor organized amid an effort to clear his name from involvement in the September incident. On Thursday, a much-criticized investigation by lawyers hired by the governor released its findings that Christie was not at fault in the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. The traffic jams were allegedly orchestrated by aides as political payback for the local town’s mayor not endorsing Christie’s reelection bid.

“The report will stand the test of time and it will be tested by the other investigations that are going on,” Christie said Friday. The report made no mention of the retiring chairman.

The report came under scrutiny in part because the lawyers’ ties to the Christie administration. Three people at the heart of the scandal also all declined to participate in the probe.

Christie said the lawyers would not “give away their reputations to do some kind of slipshod job for me.”

[AP]

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Calls Aides ‘Inexplicably Stupid’ in Bridge Scandal

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fiercely criticizes his former aides who oversaw the traffic scandal that has hurt his White House hopes. "None of it made any sense to me. And to some extent [it] still does not,” he says in an interview

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday lambasted former aides who shut down lanes on a busy bridge in an apparent political payback scheme as “inexplicably stupid.”

“When things were first reported, I said: ‘This can’t possibly be true. Because who would do something like that?’” Christie said during an interview airing Thursday night on ABC. “Sometimes, people do inexplicably stupid things.

“And so that’s what makes it so hard then to, as the guy in charge, you… none of it made any sense to me,” Christie added. “And to some extent [it] still does not.”

Christie’s denunciation of his former aides are some of his strongest to date in the “Bridgegate” scandal that has threatened his 2016 presidential ambitions. Documents which emerged earlier this year showed that Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and his ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had plotted to close lanes leading from Fort Lee, N.J. to the George Washington Bridge in what appeared to be retribution against the town’s mayor for not endorsing Christie’s reelection campaign. Lawyers hired by Christie’s to investigate the matter cleared the Republican of any wrongdoing in a report released earlier Thursday, but the events are still being probed by state lawmakers and federal authorities.

Documents show the lane closures, which caused severe traffic jams in Fort Lee, were overseen by Port Authority official David Wildstein and Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly. Wildstein resigned late last year as questions over the lane closures mounted. Christie fired Kelly and apologized for the scandal in January when the documents emerged.

Christie conceded Thursday that the scandal has taken its toll.

“You don’t sleep, you don’t eat … you struggle. You struggle,” he said. “But I do believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s been a very, very tough time professionally. Not the toughest time in my life, but certainly the toughest time in my life professionally.”

But he said the scandal won’t affect his decision about whether or not to run in 2016.

“I haven’t made a decision about 2016, and I don’t intend to make a decision about 2016 until a year from now, but it won’t have anything to do with what’s happened in the past 10 weeks,” Christie said. “What’s happened in the past 10 weeks, I think, will ultimately make me a better leader, whether it’s as governor of New Jersey or in any other job I might take in the public or private sector.”

TIME Chris Christie

Christie’s Lawyers Clear Him Of Wrongdoing After Inquiry

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to local residents of Belmar, New Jersey.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to local residents of Belmar, New Jersey, March 25, 2014. Mike Segar—Reuters

A two-month investigation by a team of lawyers hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has determined he wasn't at fault for the lane closure scandal last year

An extensive investigation by Chris Christie’s lawyers tentatively cleared the New Jersey governor of wrongdoing in connection with the lane closure scandal that has tainted his presidential prospects.

“Our investigation found that Governor Christie did not know of the lane realignment beforehand and had no involvement in the decision to realign the lanes,” according to the authors of the report, which was released Thursday morning. “Once the Governor became aware,” the report said, “he made appropriate inquiries and even convened a special meeting of his senior staff on December 13, 2013, demanding to know whether any of them were involved in this decision, only to be lied to.”

The inquiry was conducted by lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which Christie’s office retained in January. The $1 million review combed public and private emails and text messages. The lawyers, led by Gibson, Dunn partner Randy Mastro, interviewed Christie, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and more than 70 Christie aides and appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It came at a cost to taxpayers of $650 per hour.

The report suggests Christie behaved appropriately upon learning the truth about the lane closures that took place on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge last September. The report asserts Christie’s public accounting of what he knew about the lane closures “rings true.”

In a press conference to unveil the report on Thursday, Mastro said the report was “vindication” of Christie’s public comments about the matter. “We found that Gov. Christie had no knowledge beforehand of the George Washington Bridge realignment idea, and that he played no role whatsoever,” Mastro said.

The document places the blame for the incident on a tight circle of culprits, led by Bridget Kelly, a member of the governor’s senior staff. It provides a fuller picture of the scope of the scheme, as well as the subsequent cover-up by Kelly.

“We have not found any evidence of anyone in the Governor’s Office knowing about the lane realignment beforehand or otherwise being involved, besides Bridget Kelly,” the attorneys concluded. “Whatever motivated [Port Authority official David] Wildstein and Kelly to act as they did, it was not at the behest of Governor Christie, who knew nothing about it.”

The report has significant limitations, not least because of the lawyer’s ties to the Christie Administration. In addition, the three people at the heart of the scandal—Kelly, a former Christie deputy chief of staff; Bill Stepien, his two-time campaign manager; and Wildstein, who supervised the lane closures—all declined to participate in the probe.

According to the report, during a private dinner in December Wildstein told Christie’s press secretary that he had previously mentioned the lane closures to the governor. “Wildstein said this as he reiterated that the lane realignment was his idea and a legitimate traffic study,” the report notes.

Though Mastro defended the inquiry as “thorough and exhaustive,” the lawyers acknowledge the report has holes. In particular, lingering questions remain over the precise motivation of Wildstein and Kelly for closing the lanes. Media reports have suggested that the lanes were closed as retribution for Democratic Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich declining to endorse Christie for re-election. However, Christie and Sokolich have both raised questions about that theory.

Christie’s office hopes the report will help put the controversy behind him, though there are ongoing legislative and criminal inquiries into the lane closure scandal. Christie is sitting down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer Thursday in his first television interview since his two-hour press conference after the emails were revealed.

The 345-page report also examined Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegation that Guadagno had threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy recovery aid over a development project. Zimmer and Hoboken officials declined to speak with the lawyers, but they concluded her “allegations are unsubstantiated and, in material respects, demonstrably false” regardless.

Democrats have called the report a sham in advance of its release, pointing to the fact that Mastro is a confidant of Christie ally and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

“The report released today is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded PR blitz to give Christie a crisis management talking point before all the facts are even known,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said in a statement. “While numerous questions remain about Bridgegate, we do know that Christie created a culture in his office that led to the lane closures. Following the closures, Christie’s government office, campaign staff and Port Authority officials conspired in a months-long effort to cover up the damage that was done by their petty actions.”

Mastro defended his impartiality in the press conference, noting that he has defended many local Democratic politicians and that subsequent probes would reveal any inaccuracies in his firm’s report. “This is a search for the truth, and we believe we have gotten the truth,” he said. “We believe we got it right, and we will ultimately be judged by that.”

The review recommends several changes to Christie’s gubernatorial office, including restricting the use of personal email for state business and eliminating the intergovernmental affairs office held by Kelly and Stepien before her. The attorneys also called on Christie to appoint an Ombudsperson and a Chief Ethics Officer within his office to prevent similar situations in the future. Additionally, they called on Christie to work with the State of New York to consider reforms to the bi-state Port Authority.

The full report is below:

TIME 2016 Election

Republicans Vie For 2016 Support From Casino Magnate

Las Vegas Sands Corp Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson rides his wheelchair after a news conference in Tokyo , Feb. 24, 2014
Las Vegas Sands Corp Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson rides his wheelchair after a news conference in Tokyo , Feb. 24, 2014 Yuya Shino—Reuters

This weekend in Las Vegas, four potential 2016 candidates will gather at billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Venetian hotel and casino to address a gathering of the influential Republican Jewish Coalition, a group backed by Adelson

The 2016 Republican presidential primaries are still almost two years away, but the race is on for the support of one key donor: billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

This weekend in Las Vegas, four potential 2016 candidates will gather at Adelson’s Venetian hotel and casino on the strip to address a gathering of the influential Republican Jewish Coalition, a group backed by Adelson. The staunchly pro-Israel Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated well over $100 million to Republican groups in the 2012 election cycle, including Super PACs backing Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

According to a program for the conference, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will address a group of top-tier donors on Thursday evening during a “VIP Board Dinner” at the Las Vegas Sands Hangar at McCarran Airport open to donors who give more than $25,000 a year to the organization. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will address the entire conference, which is open to donors who give more than $1,000 a year to the group, on Saturday morning, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich will speak at a luncheon hosted by the group’s National Women’s Committee. Kasich and Walker will also attend a “Discussion and Photo Op” for the RJC donors who meet a $5,000 annual donation level or greater.

For the potential candidates, the opportunity to interact with the high-dollar donors, particularly Adelson, is hard to overstate. The pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, was backed almost entirely by the Adelson family and was central to the former House Speaker’s surge in the South Carolina primary. The group’s attacks on Mitt Romney also helped lay the groundwork for the Obama campaign’s message against the eventual Republican nominee.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have addressed the group in the past. One name not to look for: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose father was the only 2012 candidate not invited to the group’s candidate forum in 2011.

In addition to the presidential hopefuls, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer will address attendees at Sabbath dinner on Friday night, while former Vice President Dick Cheney will be the keynote speaker at a dinner Saturday night, with Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) serving as master of ceremonies and entertainment provided by Australian Motown group Human Nature. Cheney will hold a discussion and photo-op with donors who’ve given more than $10,000 to the group before the dinner. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer will hold a “communications workshop” on Saturday for the group’s donors focused on selling the group’s ideas, while Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) will host a late night dessert reception for young leaders. On Sunday morning, GOP commentators David Frum and John Podhoretz will discuss the path forward for the GOP in a debate moderated by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is running for Senate.

RJC donors will also be offered the opportunity to play in a golf tournament at the Royal Links Golf Club, which has holes modeled on famous British golf courses, as well as a poker tournament on Friday afternoon.

Most of the action will be taking place behind closed doors, as the speakers meet with Adelson and other top-tier donors privately. Only the Saturday morning speeches are open to the press.

TIME Tesla

Tesla’s War With the States Shifts Into Overdrive

Christie Appointees Ban N.J. Direct Sales for Musk's Tesla Cars
A Model S is displayed at the Tesla store in the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, N.J., on March 12, 2014 Emile Wamsteker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The electric car maker run by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk is fighting powerful auto interests in states across the U.S. for the right to sell its cars directly to consumers, upending the traditional dealership model

Tesla’s campaign to sell its electric cars directly to consumers shifted into high gear this week as state lawmakers debated Tesla-related bills while powerful auto lobbyists braced for a fight. In New York, a measure designed to ban Tesla from opening new stores passed a key hurdle, while in Arizona, lawmakers pushed a bill to make it easier for Tesla to sell its cars without establishing a dealer network.

The escalating conflict underscores Tesla’s role as a disruptive force in the U.S. auto industry, not only because the company’s cars don’t use gasoline engines, but also because Tesla is trying to upend the dealership-franchise model that has underpinned the automobile industry for decades. That model — and laws protecting it — emerged in the 1930s as a way for automakers to build a national sales and service force and help foster local economic growth.

Tesla sells cars directly to customers through its own retail locations — much like Apple does with its high-tech products — whereas other car companies rely on independently owned dealerships for sales and service. Auto-industry lobbyists say this model protects the public by ensuring consumer choice. They also warn that if Tesla is allowed to skirt the franchise model, consumers could be left in the lurch without a local service location if the electric-car maker goes bankrupt.

Tesla is currently barred or restricted from selling its cars directly to consumers in several states, including Texas, Arizona and, as of last week, New Jersey. In those states, the company operates “galleries” where consumers can inspect Tesla cars, but employees are prevented from discussing pricing or offering test-drives. After inspecting a Tesla, consumers in those states can purchase a vehicle online.

(MORE: Tesla CEO Rips New Jersey Over ‘Backroom Deal’ Auto-Sales Ban)

New York state assemblyman David Buchwald will hold a press conference on Friday joined by Tesla officials and environmental advocates to oppose the New York bill, which Tesla says would end the direct sale of its cars in New York. The bill, which passed a key New York state Assembly committee on Wednesday, and is backed by several dealership associations, would stifle innovation and limit consumer choice, according to Buchwald.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would allow Tesla to sell cars in the state without establishing a dealer network, reversing a ban that dates back to 2000. “This is a great opportunity for us to send a message that we welcome business and we welcome Tesla here to Arizona,” state representative Warren Petersen, the bill’s sponsor, said in comments cited by the Associated Press. “We shouldn’t deny our consumers from being able to purchase a product if they want.”

The Arizona bill highlights an awkward situation facing lawmakers there. Arizona is one of four states that Tesla is considering for its planned 10 million-sq-ft (900,000 sq m) lithium-ion-battery factory, which would supply the company’s California electric-car-assembly plant. Tesla plans to invest $2 billion in the new battery facility, dubbed the Gigafactory, and says it could employ as many as 6,500 workers at the plant. Earlier this week, Arizona’s entire U.S. congressional delegation sent Tesla a letter touting the state as an “ideal choice for this revolutionary factory.”

But even as Arizona officials woo Tesla over the Gigafactory, the company is prohibited from selling its cars directly to consumers in the state. (Texas, another candidate for the Gigafactory, also bars Tesla from selling its cars directly to consumers.) According to Arizona state senator Bob Worsley, the bill allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers is “not a quid pro quo,” he told the AP. “I want the message from our state to be that we welcome the opportunity to work with large successful companies with this size market cap.”

Tesla is battling powerful state auto-dealership interests across the country. In Ohio, the state Automobile Dealers Association waged an unsuccessful legal fight to shut down Tesla’s two existing locations in Cincinnati and Columbus. Now the group is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would prevent the company from expanding to new retail locations by blocking auto manufacturers from obtaining dealer licenses.

Back in New York, the anti-Tesla bill is headed for a full vote just days after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which is composed of political appointees selected by Governor Chris Christie, blocked Tesla’s ability to sell electric cars through its own retailers in that state. In response, Tesla CEO Elon Musk charged that auto-dealer lobbyists “cut a backroom deal” with Christie “to circumvent the legislative process.” Jim Appleton, head of the N.J. Coalition of Automotive Retailers, shot back by claiming that Musk was having a “hissy fit.”

Musk mocked the “consumer protection” rationale that was presented. “If you believe this, Governor Christie has a bridge closure he wants to sell you!” Musk wrote in a company blog post. “Unless they are referring to the mafia version of ‘protection,’ this is obviously untrue.'”

As a result of the new rule, New Jersey residents will soon have to go out-of-state or use the Internet if they want to purchase a Tesla vehicle. Musk urged would-be Tesla buyers to visit the company’s New York City store or its King of Prussia, Pa., location near Philadelphia.

For his part, Christie blamed the New Jersey state legislature for effectively banning Tesla from selling cars to consumers directly in the state. “I’m not pushing Tesla out; the state Legislature did,” Christie said at a town-hall meeting, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “I have no problem with Tesla selling directly to customers, except that it’s against the law in New Jersey.”

TIME Electric Cars

Tesla CEO Rips New Jersey Over ‘Backroom Deal’ Auto Sales Ban

Christie Appointees Ban N.J. Direct Sales for Musk's Tesla Cars
A Model S with sits on display at the Tesla store in the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, NJ, March 12, 2014. Emile Wamsteker—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The state's motor vehicle commission blocked Tesla's ability to sell electric cars through its own retailers, so Tesla CEO Elon Musk is urging buyers to visit the company's locations in New York City and Philadelphia

Tesla CEO Elon Musk blasted New Jersey officials on Friday for moving to prevent consumers from buying vehicles directly from the electric car maker, charging that auto dealer lobbyists “cut a backroom deal” with Gov. Chris Christie “to circumvent the legislative process.” In response, the head of the state Coalition of Automotive Retailers accused Musk of throwing a “hissy fit.”

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which is composed of political appointees selected by Gov. Christie, blocked Tesla’s ability to sell electric cars through its own retailers, as it does in New York and Pennsylvania. Tesla sells cars directly to customers through its own retail locations, whereas most car manufacturers rely on third-party dealerships for sales.

As a result of the new rule, New Jersey residents will soon have to go out-of-state if they want to purchase a Tesla vehicle — and that’s exactly what Musk is now suggesting. In a blog post, Musk urged would-be Tesla buyers to visit the company’s New York City store or its King of Prussia, Pa. location near Philadelphia.

For decades, the major U.S. automakers have sold vehicles under the now-familiar dealership franchise model. As a result, the U.S. auto market is composed of thousands of independently owned dealerships, which are granted the right to market and sell brands like Ford — much in the same way that fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s are independently owned franchises.

“When Tesla came along as a new company with no existing franchisees, the auto dealers, who possess vastly more resources and influence than Tesla, nonetheless sought to force us to sell through them,” Musk wrote. “The reason that we did not choose to do this is that the auto dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between promoting gasoline cars, which constitute virtually all of their revenue, and electric cars, which constitute virtually none.”

This market structure has created a conflict of interest that stacks the deck against Tesla, according to Musk, because the auto dealers “make most of their profit from service, but electric cars require much less service than gasoline cars. There are no oil, spark plug or fuel filter changes, no tune-ups and no smog checks needed for an electric car.”

In the blog post, Musk wrote that he has “made it a principle within Tesla that we should never attempt to make servicing a profit center. It does not seem right to me that companies try to make a profit off customers when their product breaks. Overcharging people for unneeded servicing (often not even fixing the original problem) is rampant within the industry and happened to me personally on several occasions when I drove gasoline cars.”

Musk mocked the “consumer protection” rationale that was presented to justify the New Jersey rule change. “If you believe this, Gov. Christie has a bridge closure he wants to sell you!” Musk declared. “Unless they are referring to the mafia version of ‘protection,’ this is obviously untrue. As anyone who has been through the conventional auto dealer purchase process knows, consumer protection is pretty much the furthest thing from the typical car dealer’s mind.”

Kevin Roberts, a spokesperson for Gov. Christie, defended the policy. “This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning,” Roberts told CNNMoney. Jim Appleton, head of the N.J. Coalition of Automotive Retailers, denied there was a backroom deal, and told NorthJersey.com that Musk was having a “hissy fit.”

As for Tesla, Musk said that the company’s New Jersey stores will “transition to being galleries, where you can see the car and ask questions of our staff, but we will not be able to discuss price or complete a sale in the store. However, that can still be done at our Manhattan store just over the river in Chelsea or our King of Prussia store near Philadelphia.” Musk added: “We are evaluating judicial remedies to correct the situation.”

TIME Automotives

Tesla Slams N.J. Ban on Direct Car Sales

Elon Musk at the Tesla store at Westfield Stratford City retail complex in London, Oct. 24, 2013.
Elon Musk at the Tesla store at Westfield Stratford City retail complex in London, Oct. 24, 2013. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Elon Musk's electric car company is criticizing Gov. Chris Christie's administration and the state's motor vehicle commission for blocking automakers from selling cars directly to customers as Tesla does to cut down on costs to consumers

Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors criticized New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration and the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission for blocking auto companies from selling cars directly to consumers Thursday. As a result of the new rule passed earlier in the day, New Jersey residents will likely have to go out of state if they want to purchase a Tesla vehicle, unless the electric car maker changes to a dealership sales model.

“The Administration and the NJMVC are thwarting the Legislature and going beyond their authority to implement the state’s laws at the behest of a special interest group looking to protect its monopoly at the expense of New Jersey consumers,” the company said in a press release. “This is an affront to the very concept of a free market.”

Tesla sells cars directly to customers through retail locations it owns, whereas most car manufacturers rely on third party dealerships for sales. New Jersey is the third state to ban the direct car sales, according to TechCrunch. Texas and Arizona also ban the practice.

The New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, a car dealership advocacy group, supported the rule change.

Shares in the company slipped 1.85 percent during regular trading.

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