—By Brad Friedman
September 7, 2011- On the morning of June 26, Chris Christie, New Jersey's flamboyant, tough-talking Republican governor, appeared on NBC's Meet The Press. He then jetted out to Colorado, delivered a keynote speech at Charles and David Koch's ultra-exclusive seminar at the Ritz-Carlton resort near Vail, and returned home the same night, all without breathing a word about his adventure to his constituents.
In Part 1 of this report, we gave you the inside scoop on the Kochs' top-secret strategy meeting, where hundreds of wealthy patrons were urged to open their wallets for what Charles Koch described as "the mother of all wars"—the effort to unseat President Obama. We also told you we'd obtained exclusive audio recordings from the event. And we promised to reveal the identity of the main keynote speaker.
With security extraordinary on the seminar's opening night—audio speakers around the periphery of the outdoor dining pavilion blasted out static to thwart eavesdroppers—David Koch introduced Gov. Christie as "my kind of guy." (The two had previously met in private at Koch's New York City office, he revealed.) Before long, seminar attendees were roaring with laughter as Christie regaled them over dessert, telling them how, in his first weeks in office, he'd exercised extraordinary executive powers to impound billions of dollars in planned spending. ("The good news for all of you and for me," he said, "is that the governorship in New Jersey is the most powerful constitutional governorship in America.")
Christie went on to explain how he'd convinced the state's Democratic majority leaders, against the wishes of most of their caucus, to help him slash public-sector pensions and benefits. And he drew a bead on his next major target: public-school teachers and their union. "That's where we head next," Christie said. "We need to take on the teachers' union once and for all, and we need to decide who is determining our children's future, who is running this place. Them or us? I say it's us."
He presented his accomplishments in New Jersey as a model for curing the nation's ills: "We know the answers. They're painful answers. We're going to have to reduce Medicare benefits. We're going to have to reduce Medicaid benefits. We're going to have to raise the Social Security age. We're going to have to do these things. We're going to have to cut all types of other government programs that some people in this room might like."
The speech was classic Christie, but the governor expressed his views to the Koch crowd with a candor that politicians—especially those with a reputation for having mainstream appeal—usually reserve for very select audiences: He called New Jersey Democratic legislators "stupid" for pushing for a tax on the wealthy that he'd previously rejected. He mimicked the voice of his predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine. And he boldly proclaimed that he'd been elected because "their ideas are wrong and our ideas are right."
Click icon to hear Christie's Corzine imitation.
(Complete audio and transcript is available at The BRAD BLOG.)
The gathering, after all, was a fundraising and strategy session for what Charles Koch described as a battle "for the life or death of this country." And Christie dutifully rallied the troops. "You, the people in this room, are the modern day patriots who will save this country or let it go by the wayside. It's up to us," he intoned during his nearly hour-long address.
He wasn't the only GOP governor in attendance that weekend. White House hopeful Rick Perry of Texas spoke earlier that day—revealing his trip only after an Austin daily confronted his spokesman. Rick Scott of Florida and Bob McDonnell of Virginia made the pilgrimage too. But Christie managed to fly to Colorado and back undetected. The governor's public-relations staff provided a copy of Christie's daily schedule for June 26, which included his Meet The Press appearance, but nothing more. After we told his deputy press secretary that we wanted to talk about Christie's Colorado trip that day, nobody from his office would return our calls, despite multiple attempts.