Christie Raised ‘Unprecedented’ Cash While Weighing 2012 Race

Chris Christie’s fund-raising swing through western states last month brought in at least $530,000 as former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and a Stifel Financial Corp. (SF) co-chairman helped the New Jersey governor shatter the out-of-state fundraising record.

His trips generated more than $620,000 from non-New Jersey sources, out of almost $1.5 million raised by the state Republican Party in the quarter that ended last month, according to a New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission filing.

Christie, 49, the first Republican elected governor in New Jersey since 1997, spent the last week of September on a round of speeches and fundraisers, including stops in California and Missouri. He sought to attract money for home-state candidates as he weighed joining the race for the Republican presidential nomination next year.

“New Jersey has never had a governor as dynamic as Chris Christie, who has captivated donors and supporters across the country,” said Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the state party. “This is unprecedented.”

Christie stepped up fundraising as his party looks to pick up seats in the Legislature next month, when votes will be cast for all 120 seats in both chambers. Democrats, who now control the Assembly 47-33 and the Senate 24-16, are hoping to expand their edge to a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Republican Party has banked about $3.17 million in 2011, the filing shows.

Democrats Trail

New Jersey’s Democratic State Committee raised $889,450 in the nine months through September, according to a summary of state campaign-finance reports. The Democratic committee brought in almost $512,200 in the period from July 1 to Sept. 30.

The increase in out-of-state money follows years of New Jerseyans providing financial support for politicians elsewhere, said Peter Woolley, who teaches politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison. He also is director of the school’s PublicMind Polling Institute.

“The Republicans are about as gleeful as they can be after being in a fundraising wilderness for most of the past 10 years,” Woolley said by telephone. “Bringing outside dollars into New Jersey was a complete reversal of the cash flow.”

National Stature

The governor’s stature in national Republican circles rose weeks after he took office in January 2010 when he froze $2.2 billion in spending to close a midyear deficit and then cut $10 billion in projected new spending on schools, pensions and aid to cities. His battles with public-employee unions culminated in June when he signed a measure requiring them to pay more for pensions and health insurance.

Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, declined to comment on the governor’s fundraising.

After spending more than a year denying he’d run for president in 2012 against Barack Obama, Christie on Oct. 4 put an end to weeks of renewed speculation that he’d join the race.

“New Jersey, you’re stuck with me,” the governor said at the time. He had been pressed by business executives, party leaders and donors to enter the primary campaign.

Contributors during the three-month span included Ashcroft, a former U.S. Senator who gave $2,500 on Sept. 30, and Thom Weisel, a Stifel co-chairman, who chipped in $7,500.

A spokeswoman in Stifel’s San Francisco office said Weisel was unavailable late yesterday for comment on the donation. She didn’t immediately respond to a message left today. The St. Louis-based investment bank and brokerage acquired Thomas Weisel Partners Group Inc. last year.

Friend and Leader

“Governor Christie is a good friend and a leader who Attorney General Ashcroft greatly admires,” Mark Corallo, a spokesman, said by e-mail. “Ashcroft is a Republican and as such, has supported several Republican candidates for elected office and Republican state party organizations.”

Ashcroft is a Missouri native who served in the Senate from 1995 to 2001, when then-President George W. Bush nominated him to the nation’s top law-enforcement post. During Ashcroft’s term as attorney general, which ended in 2005, Christie worked under him as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Terrence Dopp in Trenton at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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