NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—As the COVID-19 pandemic slammed New Jersey, a former Governor sprung into action, this time as a lobbyist for healthcare corporations.
Ex-Gov. Chris Christie’s lobbying firm has reportedly been getting paid to grease the wheels of government to bring more money to private hospitals like Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH).
The revelation was part of a POLITICO report detailing a package deal where the RWJ empire teamed up with two of its biggest competitors, Hackensack Meridian and Atlantic Health, each giving $60,000 to “Christie 55 Solutions LLC.”
“Former Governor Christie shares our collective goal of New Jersey getting its fair share of the funding that the federal government has allotted to hospitals,” RWJBarnabas the hospital chain told New Brunswick Today.
Christie’s lobbying firm was also paid $60,000 by a chain of addiction treatment centers based in Tennessee.
It’s not the first time that Christie’s profited off a crisis as a lobbyist.
His firm is also being paid $25,000 per month by the troubled Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to lobby the White House on their behalf, with both Christie and a close ally listed as lobbyists for the authority.
Richard Bagger, the Celegene executive who served as Christie’s Chief of Staff, did not respond to our questions about the scope of the Christie firm’s work for RWJBarnabas.
Bagger left Celegene at the end of 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile, which touts his position as “Executive Director” and “partner” at Christie 55 Solutions.
The firm also includes Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, and his former Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.
It’s unclear how much Christie had to do with it, but the federal government forked over billions in grants to hospitals, plus an advance on their medicare reimbursements, and cut them a break on payroll taxes.
On May 8, New Brunswick’s Congressman Frank Pallone promoted a $47,962,240 being steered to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the flagship campus for RWJBarnabas Health.
Accounting for all of the hospitals under the RWJBarnabas system, the chain received at least $343 million in just the third round of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding alone.
While the first two rounds were distributed based on formulas linked to Medicare or hospital revenues in previous years, the third round “was specifically linked to the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions,” according to Pallone’s office.
The other hospital in New Brunswick, St. Peter’s University Hospital received about $29.6 million in the third round, about 60% of RWJUH’s take.
Christie’s lobbying work may well have benefited the finances of private hospitals all over the state, not only those that he represents.
Notably, George Norcross III, one of the political bosses who supported Christie as Governor, is Chairman of the Board at Cooper Hospital in Camden. That hospital received $31.9 million in the third round.
RWJBarnabas did not directly address New Brunswick Today’s questions about the Christie firm’s work for the hospital.
“We chose to partner with him to make sure our voice is heard in Washington and the needs of our patients and staff are met,” said the hospital system in a statement passed along by spokesman Peter Haigney.
POLITICO reported that “Christie is hardly the first former governor to land on K Street.”
“But it’s unusual for a former presidential candidate who hasn’t ruled out running again to become a lobbyist, especially without joining a major Washington firm.” wrote reporters Theodoric Meyer and Adam Cancryn in the July 23 article.
“And he’s off to a fast start pulling in business: Christie registered to lobby for the first time only last month, in the middle of a lobbying boom fueled by the federal government’s multitrillion-dollar response to the pandemic.”
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.