TRENTON -- After a firestorm of criticism, Gov. Chris Christie changed his mind yesterday and decided that he and the Republican Party would reimburse the state for his personal use of a State Police helicopter, which includes two trips to watch his oldest son's baseball games.

Saying he didn't want it to be a distraction, a spokeswoman for Christie said the governor paid the state a total of $2,151 to cover the cost of two trips in which he flew from Trenton to see his son's games, one in Montvale last Friday and one near the governor's home in Mendham on Tuesday.

The reversal came a day after a different spokesman said the governor would not make a reimbursement, defending the trips as appropriate.

After seeing his son's game Tuesday, Christie and his wife used the helicopter to fly 75 miles to the official governor's mansion in Princeton for dinner with a group of top GOP campaign contributors from Iowa, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade Christie to run for president in 2012.

Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella told The Associated Press the state Republican Party is covering the cost of the trip to the governor's mansion, which cost $1,232, because the ride was for a political purpose.

On Wednesday, spokesman Michael Drewniak said the governor "does not reimburse for security and travel" and that the use of the helicopter was "extremely limited and appropriate." While the flights can cost $2,500 an hour, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes on Wednesday said Christie's use of the helicopter didn't cost taxpayers anything extra because the pilots need to put in flying time anyway, to keep their skills sharp.

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