The Leadership Matters for America PAC gives the Republican an important organizational and fundraising vehicle as he builds a possible 2016 campaign team. The move also will catch him up with many of his other potential rivals who have already launched their own leadership PACs.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, longtime Christie aide Mike DuHaime will serve as the PAC’s senior advisor, and the group will begin fundraising immediately with events in at least 10 states over the coming months.
Under Federal Election Commission regulations the leadership PAC can’t promote a specific candidate, Christie is technically the group’s honorary chairman, but it can fund the potential candidate’s travel and other campaign-related activities.
“We believe there’s a void right now in leadership throughout the country,” DuHaime told theJournal. “We aim to support candidates who are willing to take on tough problems and make tough decisions.”
Other top aides to the PAC will include Phil Cox, who served as the executive director of the Republican Governors Association under Christie. The RGA’s outgoing finance director Paige Hahn will also serve as the new PAC’s finance director, while outgoing Republican National Committee finance chairman Ray Washburne will be the PAC’s finance chairman.
Christie has also secured top aides in critical early states who will work with the PAC. Iowa operative Phil Valenziano, former political director for Gov. Terry Branstad, is focusing on the Hawkeye State. Outgoing New Hampshire Republican Party executive director Matt Mowers, a former Christie aide, will work with the PAC in the Granite State.
According to the PAC’s website, its goal is to “find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”
Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has been in the GOP’s presidential discussion since 2012, when he passed on the race and was later considered by Romney as a potential running mate.
After overwhelmingly winning re-election in heavily Democratic New Jersey in 2013, Christie turned quickly toward laying the groundwork for a 2016 campaign. In the past several months he has held meetings to court donors, convened late-night briefing sessions on foreign policy and made repeated visits to early-voting states, including Iowa, where he has organized meetings with potential backers.
He has additional trips planned over the coming weeks, including visits to New Hampshire and California.
The formation of a leadership PAC, which other potential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have also recently done, is yet another step Christie is taking as he seriously considers a run for the White House.
Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit over the weekend, the governor referred to himself as a “candidate,” pitching himself to a sceptical crowd of conservative activists and signaling he doesn’t plan to ignore the state if he runs.
“If I was too blunt, too direct, too loud and too New Jersey for Iowa, then why do you people keep inviting me back?” he said, touting his friendship with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the event’s organizer and a hero to the base. “Im here today because I’ve been a friend to Iowa and Iowa’s been a friend to me.”
But Christie also has challenges to overcome, including the still-pending federal investigation into accusations that former staff members and appointees created traffic jams as political payback against the Democratic mayor of a New York suburb by blocking access lanes to the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan.
He’s also dogged by questions about the economy of New Jersey, including several recent downgrades of the state’s credit rating and sluggish job growth. Christie is also viewed with distrust in certain conservative circles, while other question whether his brash persona and habit of confrontation will play well outside his home state.
While Christie has also told supporters to “relax” about the timing of his entry into the race, he has faced mounting pressure to get started after Bush, whose support and donor base significantly overlaps with Christie’s, said he would “actively explore” a run