Wall Street Journal: Christie's Wife Taps Her Contacts for Sandy Charity
Heather Haddon | The Wall Street Journal
Mary Pat Christie made her mark on Wall Street in the bond market, but in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy she took on a new title: charity chief.
Gov. Chris Christie's wife is leading the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, the state's official charity for those hit by the storm. The fund has raised $22 million from more than 10,000 donors since its launch.
AT&T, Hess Corporation and J.M. Eagle have given over a million dollars, with other contributors including Coca Cola, the New York Giants, the New York Jets and Polo Ralph Lauren. News Corp., the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, contributed $500,000 to the fund.
To establish the charity, Ms. Christie sought advice from former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Some of the big-ticket contributions came out of calls to people in Ms. Christie's Rolodex.
"I've met incredible people over my career," she said. "They have definitely responded to me."
New Jersey's fund will focus on providing assistance to low-income residents who have a gap between what FEMA has covered and their total economic impact from Sandy. It will also provide some financial literacy to victims and emphasize the importance of seeking mental health assistance for those who need it.
To a lesser extent, the fund will also provide assistance to small businesses, including hard-hit ones by the Jersey Shore, Ms. Christie said.
The charity will provide grants to established nonprofits that apply and are doing work in the state IBM is helping to develop a process for awarding grants and they will be decided by a committee of board members and volunteers.
The granting process hasn't yet started, but Ms. Christie hopes to begin providing some assistance by the holidays. "We want to be deliberate and strategic about how this money is spent," she said.
The fund will be run by a nine-member board, along with an honorary board that includes Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Kelly Ripa and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley.
The operating board includes three representatives with substantial foundation experience and two Republicans with long ties to Mr. Christie, Richard Bagger and Bill Palatucci. It also includes Jerry Zaro, a Democrat who was part of former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's cabinet.
Ms. Christie said that the foundation is nonpartisan and inclusive. "This is completely bipartisan, without a doubt," she said.
A 30-second public service announcement about the fund is running on network and cable television channels, on DirecTV and Clear Channel radio. Clearview Cinema is also airing the spot during movie preview in the area, and the NBA is running it at league games. All the air time was donated, Ms. Christie said.
The ad features several images of Mr. Christie consoling Sandy victims, but the governor's wife narrates and plays a more prominent role in the commercial. "Chris and I are asking you to join us in supporting communities that were affected by the storm," Ms. Christie says in the ad.
Ms. Christie said the ad, made quickly after the storm, does't promote the governor in any political fashion. "I didn't even consider what the message was going to be other than to ask for money," she said. "It certainly didn't bring on any political angle for us."
Ms. Christie, who works for Wall Street firm Angelo, Gordon & Co., said she has no experience running a charity but considers herself a quick study.
"This is a brand new world to me," she said. "It's been tremendously gratifying. I feel like I'm contributing in a meaningful way to the recovery effort."