Why Chris Christie Is Fighting the Release of His Media List

The latest in the governor’s ongoing public-records battles.

Brian Cahn/Zumapress


For years, the news media has been battling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for access to a host of ostensibly public records. In February, Mother Jones’ Molly Redden reported that Christie’s administration was fighting 23 open-records requests in court, on everything from Bridgegate to Christie’s out-of-state travel and contracts awarded in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. These fights over records aren’t just minor squabbles between pesky reporters and a prickly governor—they are costing New Jersey taxpayers serious money. As of September 2014, the Christie administration had shelled out $441,000 reimbursing lawyers for plaintiffs who successfully sued for records (and that doesn’t include other costs, such as government lawyers’ time).

Even when the Christie administration loses, it doesn’t go down without a fight. The New Jersey Watchdog, an independent investigative reporting outlet, reported Monday that the Christie administration is challenging a court’s order to release a comprehensive media list that was created by the governor’s communications office. The communications office is staffed by 16 people who earned more than $1.3 million in taxpayer-funded salaries last year.

The list, requested by the New Jersey Watchdog, includes “contact information for roughly 2,500 reporters, producers and editors, subdivided into categories, which enables Christie and his staff to selectively target efforts to promote their political ambitions,” according to the outlet. The Christie administration is arguing that providing the list would give the New Jersey Watchdog an unfair competitive advantage over other media outlets and is refusing to release it under a law that allows the government to withhold records that include trade secrets or proprietary information of government contractors.

New Jersey Watchdog does not bid on government contracts,” Mark Lagerkvist, the site’s reporter and editor, wrote Monday. “It is a non-profit investigative news site that freely shares its content with other news outlets.… [The governor’s argument] suggests the governor has a proprietary, or ownership interest in the list. But the governor’s office is not a private business. And while the media list may be a valuable asset for his political future, it is not Christie’s property.”

Lagerkvist told Mother Jones that his attorney will file a response to the administration’s challenge and the judge in the case will likely schedule a hearing to decide the matter.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate