But a "powerful lobbyist" travels to Ohio with Chris Christie to stump for John Kasich and suddenly the Star-Ledger is concerned about influence peddling.
A senior partner with Public Strategies Impact who describes himself on the firm’s website as an "icon" of New Jersey lobbying, Bodman was a ranking official in Gov. Tom Kean’s administration and a key adviser to Kean. Bodman explained that his travel with Christie was the result of nothing more than Bodman’s own long-standing friendship with the man Christie was stumping for, Ohio gubernatorial candidate John Kasich. Bodman said he was subbing for former congressman Bob Franks, one of Kasich’s closest friends, who died of cancer earlier this year.Of course Holman should know plenty about lobbyists, since he is one for a liberal organization.
"I understand perception. I’ve been around this business long enough," Bodman said. "But this had nothing to do with lobbying. In life, there are some relationships that pre-date and post-date politics. I would hope no one would read anything more into it. In my mind, I was standing in for Bob Franks, who would have been on that trip if he were alive. People can read what they want, but personal relationships exist."
Christie, who ran for governor on a campaign dedicated to ending the coziness and insider dealing that has become synonymous with state government, has already visited three states in a whirlwind monthlong tour. He returns to the road tomorrow with stops in Wisconsin and Iowa. In recent months, Christie has become the toast of the GOP establishment and his trips are viewed by some as a sign he is angling for a spot on his party’s national ticket in 2012.
The governor’s top political adviser, Mike DuHaime, said the reasons for Bodman tagging along were personal, not professional. Christie, he said, is not concerned that it could lead to questions.
"Roger Bodman was going as a sign of friendship and support," DuHaime said. "It was great he was able to go."
Christie left New Jersey on a chartered jet Monday and attended a private fundraiser in a wealthy Cincinnati enclave before returning downtown for the night. The following day, Christie headlined an event with Kasich, a former congressman and Fox News personality, and then returned to New Jersey to announce education reform proposals.
Bodman was with the governor the entire way. He said he paid for all of his own expenses except for his place on the private plane, which was covered by the Kasich campaign. Bodman said he would be glad to pay for his spot on the plane if the campaign wants the reimbursement. He said he was the one who asked if Christie would aid the Kasich campaign and he asked the governor if he could go along.
Despite the personal element to the trip, the fact that a lobbyist had such access to a governor is troubling, watchdogs said.
"This is the epitome of influence peddling," said Craig Holman, an expert on lobbying regulations at Public Citizen in Washington. "In close quarters with an office holder, that’s as great as the wining and dining. Even better. This is something like a lobbyist’s dream come true."