By
Morning Joe
updated 5/20/2013 11:15:57 AM ET 2013-05-20T15:15:57

The Republican governor and his family say New Jersey is "stronger than the storm," but critics have accused him of using federal taxpayer dollars to boost his political image.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is being scrutinized for a new, publicly funded campaign that promotes tourism in the Garden State following the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

Christie, his wife, and their four children will appear in six television and radio ads intended to drive visitors to the Shore this summer and boost the economy in beach towns hit by Hurricane Sandy.

The first wave of federal emergency relief dollars paid for the $25 million, one-year contract with the public relations firm that spearheaded the “Stronger than the Shore” campaign.

But Democrats said his starring role gives him an unfair advantage to boost his political image. Christie is running for re-election this year.

“This is something where as a governor you demonstrate competence, and that’s exactly what people are not seeing in their leaders right now,” Mike Allen, Politico’s chief White House correspondent, said on Monday’s Morning Joe.

Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012, in southern New Jersey. More than six months later, thousands of residents are still displaced and struggling to rebuild their lives and communities.

Christie said last month that he had no regrets working with President Obama on his state’s recovery, despite political blowback. Republicans criticized him for working with the president, but the governor challenged the critics to put themselves in his shoes.

“What the president and I did at that time is we saw suffering together,” Christie said last month. “When you see that, you’re either going to step up and be responsible or you’re not. We stepped up and were responsible.”

Hours before Christie was scheduled to give his State of the State address in January, Democratic State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Christie “prayed a lot and got lucky that a storm came.”

Video: Christie faces backlash after ad promoting tourism in NJ

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    >> with the politico playbook, mike allen .

    >> never sad to hang out with mike allen . i might actually take a three or four-day vacation.

    >> really?

    >> maybe so. mike, did you have a good weekend?

    >> fantastic weekend. was down in suffolk, virginia into wedding. peter and laura. yesterday, i went to charlotte, north carolina . nephew evan is a lacrosse all-american and last night played in the top 38 high school of lacrosse players in north carolina and he won!

    >> congratulations! very good.

    >>> hey, let's go to a sound bite . this is new jersey governor chris christie who is facing a backlash over 20 million ad campaign he promotes tourism to his state.

    >> what is wrong with that?

    >> nothing. i want people to come to my ad.

    >> he appears in the ad.

    >> we do this in florida all the time. we have a tragedy and people say we can't go to florida. no. you saw we are open for business.

    >> and families should join us.

    >> roll the tape.

    >> thank goodness he did this. it's in our blood our dna who we are we are here to stay because we're stronger than ever

    >> the jerseys shore is." aye.

    >> the word is spreading because we are stronger than the storm.

    >> you bet we are.

    >> the guy loves jersey and he doesn't hate his family. what is wrong with that, mike? he is proud of his family!

    >> i'm saying bring it on if i'm chris christie . reminding voters of one of cris's strongest issues and now he handled -- not how he handled sandy but the fact it gave me the opportunity, the excuse to work with this white house to work with president obama and interestingly enough in the first christie ad of this campaign which we saw first here on " morning joe " he makes this point that he is reaching out. this is a state that is a blue state in presidential politics so it helps him that he has had this issue where he can reach out. democrats have been trying this for months. back in january, some democrat said -- democratic legislative leader said christie prayed for a storm and he apologized but that but shows democrats are chewing this rag for a while.

    >> they should spit it out and be grateful that jersey --

    >> one way of putting it.

    >> my grandma says this takes the rag off the churn, doesn't it? but, you know, the thing is chris christie was a big part of this recovery. of course, nick tells me that george pataki got in trouble when he was promoting the state for having himself in there. but strong leaders attract people to states. that's just a relate of it.

    >> no. that's right. and it gave the governor a big substantive nonidio logical issue. it's harder to run on teachers union and pension reform and controversial things and harder to run on. this is something, as a governor, you demonstrate competence and what people are not showing in their leads right now.

    >> and a point of pride in the way it's done. politico mike allen , thanks.

    >> congratulations to your entire extended family . a heck of a weekend for the allen household.

    >> and congratulations to mika, the upcoming issue of "the new york times" book review "obsessed" debuting on the list.

    >> thank you.

    >> ahead, chuck todd of "the

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