It’s such a pity that, despite persistent GOP entreaties, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie still refuses to run for president. Actually, seems he’s refusing to run — or even walk — anywhere, preferring instead to take a state helicopter to his son’s high school baseball game.

Naturally, this has gotten him into hot water this week in the Garden State.

“Choppergate” began Tuesday evening when the Newark Star -Ledger reported, within hours of the event, that Christie and his wife arrived in the 55-foot helicopter just before the game started, landing on an adjacent football field. The governor then ambled over to a black state car with tinted windows that drove the first couple the 100 yards to the stands.

They stayed until the fifth inning, when they were driven back to the helicopter and flew off to the governor’s mansion in Princeton in time to meet with a group of GOP Iowa donors who want Christie to run in 2012.

The flights to the game and then to the mansion apparently cost more than $3,000. That, given Christie’s public image as an ethically upright budget-cutter in these difficult times, immediately had Democrats yelling “hypocrite.”

Turns out Christie has used the state police helicopter only 35 times in his 16 months in office, according to the state police, which is substantially less than recent predecessors, who flew in them hundreds of times a year — and were often roundly criticized for doing so. Former governor James McGreevey had the Democratic State Committee reimburse the state $18,000 for some of his trips.

Christie initially refused to pay back the state for the rides. But a two-day firestorm of criticism from left and right proved overwhelming. A Star-Ledger online poll showed 67 percent of readers considered the chopper rides “inappropriate.”

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Christie, citing his “duty . . . to focus on the real problems of the state” and not be distracted by a media circus, said he wrote a check. It was in the amount of $2,251, and the New Jersey Republican Party wrote one for $1,200 to cover the costs.

Christie told reporters that he originally didn’t think he needed to pay anything because the state police superintendent had told him the trips didn’t cost taxpayers anything — the pilots needed to fly the choppers as part of their training.

That would have come as great news for state Democrats, because they may have been able to get that $18,000 back. It would have been tough news for former governor Jon Corzine, who perhaps wouldn’t have been badly injured in a state car crash a few years ago had he known that New Jersey provided a free helicopter to its governor for official and personal use — home to work, a weekend in the Hamptons, whatever.

The mega-wealthy Corzine avoided the helicopter problem by picking up the cost of a private helicopter when he needed one, one of his former aides told us. Or, the aide said, Corzine had his campaign fund pay when it was a political trip. “Our understanding was that to do otherwise would be illegal.”

The aide noted that former Newark mayor Sharpe James was prosecuted by then-U.S. attorney Christie for using municipal credit cards to, among other things, take foreign trips with girlfriends. If Christie were still a prosecutor, the aide quipped, “he would have indicted himself if he’d done this.”

In any event, in his now-famous meeting with the Iowans, Christie reportedly didn’t flatly rule out running in 2012. And he’s scheduled to speak in Iowa on education matters at the end of July.


It’s been lights out this week at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We got this notice at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday saying power was out.

Due to a power outage at FERC Headquarters all systems are currently down. We will inform you when the situation has been corrected.

Because we have suffered a temporary power outage, any filing with a due date of May 31, 2011, will be considered timely on June 1, 2011.

Pepco eventually restored power late Tuesday, but at 10 p.m. we received another e-mail saying that everyone but emergency folks were on administrative leave. So energy-less headquarters was closed Wednesday. On Thursday morning, another alert said that all but emergency employees would have the day off and that they should check FERC’s Web site to find out if they’re going to get another really long weekend off.

We thought regulations were job-killing, not power-killing.

Sorry, but about what?

“I am disappointed that I didn’t do things differently,” former attorney general Alberto “Fredo” Gonzales said in a deposition filed last week in federal court in the District. He was referring to not stopping the politicization of hiring career Justice Department attorneys through the department’s honors program.

“Obviously, everyone is smarter in hindsight,” he said, according to the deposition, spotted by Tony Mauro of LegalTimes. “In hindsight, you wish you would do some things differently,” said Gonzales, who’s now teaching at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “I feel disappointment in myself.”

He gave the deposition last September in a lawsuit filed by program applicants who said they were turned down after department officials investigated their political affiliations and used that information to “de-select” people.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Daniel Metcalfe, who conducted the deposition in Lubbock, told Mauro he thought that “everyone in the room realized that, in his own limited way, he was at last being apologetic” in the matter.

Maybe, maybe not. Here’s what Gonzales told Esquire Magazine in December 2009 about firing those U.S. attorneys. “We should have abandoned the idea of removing the U.S. attorneys once the Democrats took the Senate. Because at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations. We didn’t see that at the Department of Justice. Nor did the White House see that. Karl [Rove] didn’t see it. If we could do something over again, that would be it.”

So the problem was just that they got caught.

Moving on

Steven W. Korn, former vice chairman and chief operating officer of CNN, is in line to be the next president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, overseeing broadcasting operations to 21 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting, is expected to vote him into the job when it meets Friday. Korn held several top positions, including general counsel, during his 17 years at Turner Broadcasting Systems.

You can follow In the Loop on Twitter @AlKamenWP.