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GOV. CHRISTIE HITS PRIME-TIME TV Report by Mark Lagerkvist

Posted On August 29, 2012

Move over Tony Soprano, Nucky Thompson and Snooki. New Jersey’s latest TV character has just taken a star turn in prime-time before a national audience.

Gov. Chris Christie was larger than life – if that’s possible – during his keynote speech Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

During the first 17 minutes he didn’t even mention Mitt Romney. Instead, Christie focused on himself while auditioning for a future role in national politics. A cheering throng of GOP delegates did not seem to mind his narcissism one bit.

Christie prides himself on “taking on tough issues.” Throughout the speech, he promised to talk about the “hard truths” in a “new era of truth-telling” – but one hard truth seemed to be missing from the governor’s tale of pension reform in New Jersey.

“With bipartisan leadership we saved taxpayers $132 billion over 30 years and saved retirees their pensions,” claimed Christie.

Christie did spearhead legislation that increased pension contributions by public employees, tweaked benefits and halted cost of living increases. But it is equally true that he did little or nothing to stop the costly practice of “double-dipping” – which allows well-connected officials to “retire,” start collecting a pension and then return to work for the state, often the next day or week.

New Jersey Watchdog investigation found 60 double-dippers who collect a total of nearly $10 million a year — $4.4 million in pensions in addition to $5.5 million in state salaries. One-third of them were hired under the Christie administration – but that’s a hard truth that the governor does not like to address.

The biggest double-dipper is Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Louis Goetting (pronounced “getting”). Goetting gets $228,860 a year – $140,000 in salary, plus $88,860 as a state retiree.

Overall, the speech offered more showmanship than substance from Christie. It was packed with personal stories, patriotic themes and applause lines. Like a script written for Tony, Nucky or Snooki, it was designed to grab ratings, stir emotions and please an audience of fans.

Christie may sometimes act like a boor, but he’s not a bore. Following this year’s audition, perhaps he’ll get a lead role in the passion play of presidential politics for 2016 or 2020.



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