Taxpayers’ tab for Christie’s foreign trips tops $120,000

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s recent foreign trips to the United Kingdom, Mexico and Canada cost New Jersey taxpayers nearly $124,000, his office says.

The numbers, released by his office Friday evening, cover security and security-related transportation expenses for each trip, as well as the expenses incurred by Christie’s official photographer.

While the trips have been billed as official trade missions to encourage investment in the state, they also provided Christie, a governor with little foreign policy experience, a chance to build his foreign policy resume as he considers a run for the Republican nomination for president. The trips included meetings and photo ops with world leaders as well as speeches.

Christie’s three-day trip to the United Kingdom in February was the most expensive of the three, costing taxpayers $62,653.19, according to the numbers provided by his office. A trip to Canada in early December 2014 cost taxpayers $29,800, while a trip to Mexico that September cost $21,822.06.

In all, taxpayer dollars will cover $114,275 in security and transportation costs, which includes state troopers’ airfare and hotel costs, but not their salaries. In addition, taxpayers will cover $9,617.79 in expenses logged by Tim Larsen, Christie’s chief of photography and visual communications.

That brings the total bill incurred by taxpayers for the three trips to $123,893.04.

Christie and his traveling delegations’ other travel expenses were paid for by Choose New Jersey, a non-profit state economic development group funded by corporate donations, which aims to promote investment and job creation in the state. The governor’s office declined to provide those costs and the group has not responded to numerous requests for comment in recent months.

Media outlets have been requesting the totals since Christie returned from Mexico. A spokesman for the governor’s office, Kevin Roberts, declined to comment further.

Christie’s trips included several foreign policy speeches, numerous closed-door meetings with local officials and plenty of photo ops with world leaders.

In Mexico last September, Christie delivered a speech criticizing President Barack Obama for failing to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and called for stronger relations with Mexico and Canada. He also traveled to the city of Puebla with President Enrique Peña Nieto, where he received an enthusiastic welcome from students in an outdoor arena.

In the United Kingdom in February, Christie met behind closed doors with British Prime Minister David Cameron and enjoyed a soccer match. He also drew controversy when he said parents should have some measure of choice when it comes to vaccinating their children. He later walked those comments back.

The security costs from the three recent trips are similar to the nearly $40,000 taxpayers paid for Christie’s first trade mission to Israel and Jordan in April 2012.

Christie told an audience in Washington recently that he’s eying additional travel — potentially to Latin America — later this year.

Christie says he’ll make a decision about whether he’s running for the Republication presidential nomination later this month.

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