Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign seriously considered adding Chris Christie, the NJ GOP governor as vice president, but didn’t mostly because Romney doesn’t care for fatties – Pufferfish was the code word for Christie, as example – and because there was a lot of potential baggage in Christie’s history. Amused that some back stabbers in the Romney campaign team have released all this opposition research on Chris Christie to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, prior to Christie’s announcement that he is running for the 2016 ticket. I’d guess these staffers won’t be running Christie’s campaign…
The list of questions Myers and her team had for Christie was extensive and troubling. More than once, Myers reported back that Trenton’s response was, in effect, Why do we need to give you that piece of information? Myers told her team, We have to assume if they’re not answering, it’s because the answer is bad.
The vetters were stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record. There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official—and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.” (Todd also oversaw a family foundation whose activities and purpose raised eyebrows among the vetters.) And all that was on top of a litany of glaring matters that sparked concern on Myers’ team: Christie’s other lobbying clients, his investments overseas, the YouTube clips that helped make him a star but might call into doubt his presidential temperament, and the status of his health.
Ted Newton, managing Project Goldfish under Myers, had come into the vet liking Christie for his brashness and straight talk. Now, surveying the sum and substance of what the team was finding, Newton told his colleagues, If Christie had been in the nomination fight against us, we would have destroyed him—he wouldn’t be able to run for governor again. When you look below the surface, Newton said, it’s not pretty
Four nights later, on July 19, Myers’ team put the finishing touches on the Pufferfish vetting dossier. Included was a DVD with some of Christie’s most outlandish or unnerving YouTube hits: his castigating a pro-gay-marriage New Jersey assemblyman as “numb nuts,” his angrily berating a constituent while chasing him down the Seaside Heights boardwalk, brandishing an ice cream cone. But the main event was the 35-page written report titled “Chris Christie memo 71912 FINAL.”
After 11 days of teeth-gnashing labor, several of the issues that the vetters had unearthed around Christie were still unresolved. Myers and her team were sticklers. Uncomfortable producing a final report they considered incomplete, they made a point of being meticulous about framing and flagging the problems, including a refrain in bold applied to a number of items.
On Todd Christie’s securities-fraud settlement: “[Governor] Christie has been asked to disclose whether Todd Christie incurred any monetary or other penalty as a result of the SEC/NYSE action. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, this item should be obtained.” On Christie’s defamation lawsuit: “Christie has been asked to provide the terms of the settlement of this matter. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, this item should be obtained.” On Christie’s household help: “Christie has been asked to provide the names and documented status of all domestic employees. This material has not been received. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, these items should be obtained.” On Christie’s lobbying clients: “Christie has provided only one of the twelve or so [public disclosure] filings made [in the time he was a lobbyist] … If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, these items should be obtained.”
Then there was this: “In response to the questionnaire, Governor Christie indicates that he has no health issues that would hinder him from serving as the vice-presidential nominee. Published reports indicate that Christie suffers from asthma and was briefly hospitalized last year after he suffered an asthma attack. He is also obese and has indicated that he struggles with his weight. ‘The weight exacerbates everything,’ he is quoted as saying. Christie has been asked to provide a detailed medical report. Christie has been asked to provide a copy of all medical records from his most recent physical examination. If Christie’s possible selection is to move forward, this item should be obtained.”
(click here to continue reading Double Down Excerpt: Mitt Romney Feared Chris Christie’s Baggage | TIME.com.)