Christie returns favor to top donor Hugin, donates $5K

New Brunswick, NJ – Chris Christie returned the favor this week to Bob Hugin, who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the former New Jersey governor’s failed presidential run, by having his PAC contribute to Hugin’s campaign.  According to the latest FEC filing, Republican Bob Hugin accepted a $5,000 donation from Leadership Matters for America PAC, a political action committee run by Christie, who was run out of office with a record-low 13% approval rating.  This is on top of the more than $4.5 million in false, negative ads paid for by Integrity NJ, a super PAC run by Christie’s close associates.

“Greedy, drug company CEO Bob Hugin can pretend all he wants to be ‘independent’, but with friends like Chris Christie and Donald Trump, it’s clear he will never have New Jersey’s back,” said Menendez Campaign Communications Director Steve Sandberg.  “Bob Hugin is a Christie-Trump Republican masquerading as a moderate whose values are out-of-touch with New Jersey voters.  New Jerseyans overwhelmingly rejected Chris Christie and Donald Trump, and they will do the same to Bob Hugin on Nov. 6.  This trading of campaign cash just further cements the longstanding Hugin-Christie bond.”

Hugin and Christie, who left office with the lowest approval rating of any New Jersey governor in history, are tied at the hip.

New York Times:  “The second-most-prolific political donors among the top-paid chieftains were Robert J. Hugin, the recently retired chief executive of the drug company Celgene, and his wife, Kathleen. Mr. Hugin gave $250,000 to a superPAC supporting … Chris Christie’s unsuccessful bid [for president].”

Moreover, Hugin was a major donor to Gov. Christie’s allies.

  • Hugin was a major donor to the Republican Governors Association when Christie led it. After Christie abandoned his presidential campaign, Hugin followed Christie’s lead and backed Donald Trump, donating more than $200,000 to the effort to help get Trump elected. He also donated nearly $200,000 to national Republican committees.

Hugin was a founding board member of Choose NJ. He served from 2013-2015.  The nonprofit helped fund Christie’s travels that were ostensibly meant to promote New Jersey for business, but which were really a way for him to lay the groundwork for a failed presidential run.

New York Times: “Choose N.J. sounded dubious in a report last year about enticing business from Britain. Interest was strongest, it found, from Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, Sweden and Switzerland. But London is a prime market for fund-raising among American expatriates: In 2012, President Obama and Mitt Romney raised more money in Britain than in any other foreign country.” Choose N.J. does not have to disclose their expenses.

The Christie administration and Celgene shared personnel.

  • During Christie’s first term, Hugin’s New Jersey-based company, Celgene, poached Christie’s chief of staff, Richard Bagger, to become a high-ranking executive at the firm.
  • During Celgene’s groundbreaking Christie joked with Hugin about Bagger leaving for Celgene. “In case any of you thought that I was holding any grudge … I wanted to make sure I was here today to let you know all is well between me and Hugin. No hard feelings,” Christie said at the time.

And a Celgene executive was given preferential treatment by NJ law enforcement, which resulted in a $1.5 million settlement for the whistleblower and cost New Jersey’s taxpayers $3 million in legal fees.

  • The case stems from a 43-count indictment brought by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office in 2010 against then-Sheriff Deborah Trout, Undersherriff Michael Russo, and investigator John Falat Jr. They were charged with official misconduct and falsification of documents. Among the charges:
    • Trout allowed Russo to oversee his own background investigation and allowed a prospective county investigator to obtain a county-issued handgun without proper background checks,
    • Falat printed and distributed fake sheriff’s office ID cards.
  • But then-state Attorney General Paula Dow stepped in and quashed the indictment, calling it legally and factually deficient. Barlyn said he was fired later that year after he complained to a superior that he felt the case was dropped for political reasons. His lawsuit claimed the Robert Hariri, a pharmaceutical executive at Celgene, a major New Jersey biopharmaceutical company with close ties to Christie’s administration, was the recipient of one of the fake ID cards. Hariri donated $6,800 to Christie’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2009. Subsequently, Hariri maxed out on a donation to Hugin’s campaign.

Even now, whether through the formation of a superPAC or through statements of support, Christie’s inner circle has been uniquely helpful to Hugin’s run.

  • Two of the top staffers of Integrity NJ, a superPAC formed to boost Hugin’s efforts, have close ties to Christie. Its executive director, Peter Sheridan, took the job immediately after leaving his post as Christie’s last state-paid aide for his transition out of office. Its chairman and senior adviser, Phil Cox, worked under Christie when he chaired the RGA and then established the superPAC America Leads that was meant to boost Christie’s presidential bid. At the time, nearly half of Integrity NJ’s money came from one donor: William P. Scully, a Florida resident who gave $1 million. Scully is a major shareholder in Celgene. Thus far, more than $4.5 million has been raised against Senator Menendez.
  • Moreover, when Hugin tried to pre-empt news stories about his fight against admitting women to an elite eating club at Princeton University while he led the school’s alumni board, his campaign, in a news release, quoted Regina Egea — a former Christie chief of staff — to back Hugin for his support for “equal pay for equal work” for women. Egea runs the new conservative think tank Garden State Initiative. GSI is an affiliate of the State Policy Network, that functions primarily as an umbrella organization for a consortium of conservative and libertarian think tanks that focus on state-level policy.