The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By John Reitmeyer and Melissa Hayes, The Record

TRENTON, N.J. — The delegation joining Gov. Chris Christie in Mexico this week includes the head of New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority and executives from major corporations, but also a former U.S. ambassador to Brazil and some of Christie’s closest advisers.

The three-day trip, which is being billed as a trade mission, is receiving financial backing from Choose New Jersey, the non-profit business advocacy group that has supported Christie and also paid for his first international mission, to Israel in 2012.

Christie is scheduled to arrive in Mexico City Wednesday morning and has a packed schedule that includes a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, according to details released by his office. Meetings with Mexican business leaders are planned for Wednesday, and on Friday the governor is scheduled to travel to the nearby state of Puebla.

Joining Christie on the trip is a 15-member delegation, Christie’s office announced on Monday. The group includes some of his closest aides and advisers, including Robert Grady, a private equity fund manager who also runs New Jersey’s $80 billion public employee pension system, and Richard Bagger, a former Christie chief of staff now senior vice president for corporate affairs at Celgene Corp., a Summit-based pharmaceutical company.

Another Christie confidant, Michele Brown, who serves as chief executive of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, is also in the delegation.

Choose New Jersey, the non-profit organization that aims to improve the state’s business climate, is being represented by board member Laurence Downes, and by Tracye McDaniel, the organization’s president and chief executive officer.

The group, founded in 2010, receives support from major corporations, including Bank of America, Prudential and Verizon. Companies that give $150,000 annually for three years get “board member” status, and those contributing $25,000 annually for three years receive “partner” status, according to the organization’s web site.

Federal tax records indicate the group raised $2.88 million in 2012, and spent $3.15 million. A spokeswoman for Choose New Jersey did not return a call seeking comment on Monday.

In 2012, the organization spent $42,000 on Christie’s five-night trip to Israel, including costs of accommodations and meals for Christie staffers. Taxpayers paid about $40,000 in security costs for the trip, which also included time in Jordan.

Before the trip to the Middle East, McDaniel said the group’s involvement was to help demonstrate “New Jersey is out there and we mean business.”

Also in the delegation for the Mexico trip is Ralph Izzo, chairman of Public Service Enterprise Group; Greg Brown, chief executive of Motorola Solutions; and Clifford Sobel, a former U.S. ambassador to Brazil who is now managing partner at Valor Capital Group.

The delegation also includes Leo Cervantes, owner of Highland-based Chilangos Restaurant; Pedro Matar, owner of the El Aguila restaurant chain; Al Zapanta, president of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce; Mauricio Doehner, vice president of corporate affairs for Mexican cement producer CEMEX; Fermin Garcia, pastor at Unity Church Group in Tijuana, Mexico; Martin Perez, president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey; and Raul Rendon Ponce, founder of Minnesota-based BioPlastic Solutions.

Although the trip is being billed as a trade mission — New Jersey and Mexico share more than $5 billion worth of goods annually — it also comes as Christie is considering whether to run for president in 2016 and as immigration and the U.S. border with Mexico have become major issues.

Bagger, Downes, Grady and Sobel all made contributions to Christie’s campaign for re-election last year. The governor won 51 percent of New Jersey’s Latino vote.

Several staff members are accompanying Christie to Mexico.

Tim Larsen, Christie’s chief of photography and visual communications, arrived in Mexico City early Tuesday morning followed later in the day by Maria Comella, the governor’s deputy chief of staff for communications, and Lauren Fritts, the director of digital media. Two members of Christie’s security detail arrived in Mexico on Tuesday afternoon.

Photo: Fiscal Summit via Twitter


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump, right

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is examined in a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}