Welcome to Coptergate.
Just yesterday afternoon, Patch.com in Ridgewood, North Jersey, reported (and ran photographs) of Gov. Christie getting out of a brand-new state police helicopter in order to check out a few innings of his son's high school baseball playoff game.
By last evening, that moment of alleged excess for a state with serious budget problems had become the joke of the Trenton Twitterati. From @JoshuaHenne, a Dem strategist:
New #BumperSticker for @GovChristie: "My other car is a $12.5 million helicopter that is supposed to be used for homeland security & trauma"
Coptergate also overshadowed the other news of the night -- that a bunch of GOP fundraisers from Iowa had failed to convince Christie to run for president (as a consolation prize for his fans in Iowa, he said he will be headlining an education conference out there this summer).
And now, this morning, the press releases are coming from angry Dems on the use of the helicopter -- which has gotten previous governors, of both parties and various states, in trouble in the past. From Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D., Gloucester):
“Gov. Christie has no qualms decimating health care for women, slashing property tax relief for seniors and raising income taxes on working families but apparently doesn’t hesitate to abuse taxpayer dollars by taking taxpayer-paid helicopter jaunts. Gov. Christie obviously doesn’t include himself in his hollow call for shared sacrifice. He prefers hitching rides on $12.5 million taxpayer-paid helicopters while the rest of the state suffers under his property tax hikes.
"Gov. Christie must learn that taxpayers cannot afford his helicopter joyrides. The governor needs to do the right thing and publicly detail his use of state police helicopters and immediately reimburse the taxpayers for all costs associated with personal and political trips."More on this story to come, obviously. A Christie spokesman called the trip routine and typical, but there are still more questions to be answered: Where was the gov coming from? Where was he going? Was this all "illegal," as a spokesman for former Gov. Corzine said?
(And by the way, Andrew Christie and his Delbarton School team won the ball game, 7-2).