Report: Christie spent $300,000 in taxpayer money on food and drinks

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has spent about $300,000 of taxpayer money on food and drinks during his five years in office, according to an analysis released Monday.

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The report from New Jersey Watchdog found Christie spent more than $82,000 alone at MetLife Stadium, the home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, during the 2010 and 2011 football seasons.

The New Jersey Republican State Committee later reimbursed the state for the full amount, and Christie has since stopped using the expense account at sporting venues.

“Whenever the Governor hosts an event in his official capacity, the discretionary account is available to pay for those costs associated with official reception and hosting and related incidental expenses,” a Christie spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. “The official nature and business purpose of the event remains the case regardless of whether the event is at the State House, Drumthwacket, or at a sporting venue.”

“Nonetheless in early 2012, the Governor made the decision that costs associated with hosting at the sporting venues were better paid with non-state funds, and those expenses incurred during 2010 and 2011 were reimbursed by the NJGOP,” the statement continued. “This week, to ensure this remains the case in full, the NJGOP reimbursed the Treasury for an additional $3,367.22 to deal with an accounting anomaly.”

The Associated Press first reported on Christie's luxury box spending last week. Christie addressed the matter during a stop in New Hampshire over the weekend, in which he called the expenses "completely justifiable," but said he decided to stop using the expense account to avoid the appearance of political impropriety.

"Quite frankly, in today's world where everything is kind of twisted and turned to look like it's something wrong when it isn't, I just said in 2012 to my folks, 'Listen, let's just have the state party pay for this, so to the extent there's anybody there who's political, people can't make the argument that we're using taxpayer money for anything that even looks like politics,'" Christie said, according to the AP.

The New Jersey Watchdog report also found Christie spent more than $100,000 on groceries and alcoholic beverages from retail stores, including $76,000 in 53 trips to Wegmans supermarket; $12,000 in 51 trips to ShopRite; and about $6,500 in seven visits to ShopRite’s liquor counter.

The report said it’s unclear “whether the goods stocked the pantries and filled the refrigerators at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official mansion in Princeton, or the Mendham house where Christie and his family live.”

Christie’s office disputed the insinuation in the report that the goods were purchased for personal use, arguing that all of the expenses were related to official events. Wegmans and ShopRite both offer catering for large events.

Christie spent about $110,000 on other catered events for state receptions and special events, which the report said was “more consistent with the stated purpose of the allowance.”

Christie’s office has a $95,000-per-year expense account for official state events and operations at the governor’s mansion and State House.

The spending detailed in the New Jersey Watchdog report appears to be at odds with Christie’s image as a blue-collar everyman who has taken on teachers’ unions and the state’s bloated pension system in an effort to rein in spending.

In February, The New York Times ran a report about Christie’s lavish travel requests, detailing instances when the New Jersey governor relied on wealthy benefactors to pay for expensive trips for himself and his family.

Christie is considering running for president. He entered 2015 near the top of the polls, but his support has fallen sharply in recent months.

The New Jersey Republican is currently buried in seventh place nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, taking 5.5 percent support.

--This report was updated at 2:36 p.m.