Democrats cry foul over New Jersey tourism ads featuring Christie

Democrats are criticizing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) for using public funds on tourism ads for the Jersey Shore — contending that the ads are a thinly veiled effort to bolster his 2013 reelection campaign.

The new "Stronger than the Storm" ad features Christie and his family on-camera urging Americans to vacation on the Jersey Shore after it was rebuilt following Hurricane Sandy. They are running on the East Coast.

"As property taxes skyrocket and New Jersey's unemployment rate stagnates well above the national average, Chris Christie is starring in taxpayer-funded campaign ads under the guise of a Sandy tourism campaign," said Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. "Chris Christie loves to promote a 'New Jersey Comeback' that never happened, but his use of Sandy recovery dollars to promote his own reelection campaign is nothing short of shameless."

Christie aides pointed out that the ads aren't simply running in New Jersey -- where they would benefit Christie's reelection campaign -- and the media firm spearheading the campaign, MWW, said the popular governor is the ideal messenger for the campaign.

Christie spokesman Colin Reed said the firm requested the governor and his family appear personally.

“It was a creative decision by the 'Stronger Than The Storm' campaign to include Gov. Christie and the First Lady," Reed said. "They are in a uniquely qualified position to tell a very wide audience beyond New Jersey that our state and our Shore is open for business.”

It's not new for New Jersey governor's to be featured in publicly funded ads. The man Christie beat in 2009, former governor Jon Corzine (D), also appeared in public service announcements for seatbelts in 2007 -- two years before his reelection campaign -- and former governor Tom Kean (R) also appeared in tourism ads in the 1980s.

The new ad campaign costs a reported $25 million and will feature other paid media including billboards and radio ads. The funds are drawn from a $60 billion Sandy relief package.

Christie's wife, his son and his daughter all have speaking roles in the first ad. Christie will co-host the "Today Show" on May 24 to promote the campaign.

Christie is a strong favorite for reelection this year, facing a challenge from state Sen. Barbara Buono (D).

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Ed O'Keefe · May 16, 2013