By Brad Friedman on 9/14/2011, 1:26pm PT  

After being allowed to bamboozle 101.5FM's Eric Host on last night's Meet the Governor radio program in New Jersey, by conflating one secret meeting with David and Charles Koch with another that occurred months earlier, Gov. Chris Christie is now denying he ever had any discussions about a key environmental initiative with the billionaire oil baron brothers in either of the secret meetings.

According to Timothy J. Carroll at PolitickerNJ today, the Governor was pressed once again at a press conference this morning to clear up an issue that has remained in contention since we posted our exclusive story at Mother Jones last week, revealing audio we'd obtained of Christie's secret keynote address --- and David Koch's introduction to it --- at a recent, invitation-only Koch brothers political strategy and fundraising seminar near Vail, Colorado...

As Carroll reports today, the Governor now contends that at no time has he ever discussed the issue in contention with the Kochs...

BERGENFIELD – Gov. Chris Christie said at no point in two meetings this year with wealthy and influential magnate David Koch did the conservative businessman lobby the governor to pull New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Christie said the two spoke about a “whole range of political and policy issues” – state and federal – in a two-hour get-together at Koch’s New York City office in February.

“Reggie (RGGI) never came up. He never brought it up. I never brought it up,” he said, agreeing that defeating the cap-and-trade initiative has been a major policy goal of Koch’s Americans For Prosperity advocacy group. “I certainly thought he was going to, but he didn’t.”

“He asked for the meeting. I didn’t ask for the meeting,” Christie said. “I had lunch with him. Those were the topics he brought up. He didn’t bring up Reggie (RGGI). I thought he would, but he didn’t.”

Within the last few minutes, AP's Beth DeFalco confirms the above account, and adds that Koch spokesman Philip Ellender similarly denies the subject of RGGI was ever discussed between Christie and the Kochs.

"However, we believe the governor's decision to abandon RGGI was the right one," Ellender told AP. "By lifting harmful regulations on businesses, New Jersey is preventing further job losses and acting in the best interest of its citizens."

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI (pronounced "Reggie") is a cap-and-trade market created by 10 Northeast states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and re-invest the revenue in clean energy programs. Christie's unilateral withdrawal from the program, as announced on May 26, a month prior to his June 26 appearance at the Kochs' seminar with some 300 corporate barons, caught many by surprise.

The Kochs have spent millions through their various political front groups, such as Americans for Prosperity and others, campaigning against the initiative which, while likely to cost an average NJ family of four little more than the cost of a postage stamp each month, could be far more costly to the giant oil and chemical conglomerate Koch Industries, and their various fossil fuel partners funding the climate change denial industry in this country. Currently, industries are allowed to pollute for free in most states.

David Koch's admission in his introduction to Christie's speech at the June event in Vail --- that he had met with the Governor privately in his New York City office five months earlier, "just the two of us - for about two hours" --- has led some of Christie's critics, including NJ Sierra Club director Jeff Tittle, to cite the audio from the secret keynote as "the smoking gun that shows [Christie's] been working with the Koch brothers from the beginning."

On last night's monthly Meet the Governor town hall radio program (audio and transcript of the relevant moment available here), Christie was asked whether he had spoken with either of the Kochs about RGGI during his secret meetings.

Exploiting host Eric Scott's apparently vague grasp of the fact that there were two meetings at question --- the one in Colorado after his withdraw from RGGI, and, of more concern, the private meeting in NYC prior to the RGGI pull-out --- Christie deflected the question by conflating the two different meetings, charging that "reporters don't do their homework."

"I had already withdrawn from RGGI months before I gave the speech in Colorado. Two months beforehand," Christie answered abruptly on the radio, turning the question to the CO meeting, rather than the NYC one. "So, I don't know how a conversation...I had two months after I did something, could have an effect on what I did."

Today, however, when pressed specifically about the earlier meeting with David Koch in NYC, Christie found his way to go on record denying that the issue was ever discussed with the billionaire brothers.

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[ED NOTE: I'll be speaking with the NJ Sierra Club's Jeff Tittle about this issue during my Pacifica Radio show on KPFK here in Los Angeles today at 3:30pm PT. If you are not within the KPFK broadast area --- 90.7FM Los Angeles, 98.7FM Santa Barbara, 93.7FM N. San Diego & 99.5FM Central Coast --- you can tune in to the live stream online right here. - Brad]

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