Republican congressional candidate Peter DeNeufville’s family foundation has given $55,000 to Planned Parenthood and the Tides Foundation, a progressive policy group, since 2012
The foundation gave Planned Parenthood $15,000 for health education in 2016 and $20,000 to support family planning in 2012. Donations to the Tides Foundation, $5,000 in 2016 and $15,000 the year before, were not listed with a purpose.
Though it was a small portion – roughly 4.4% – of the almost $1.3 million the Roxiticus Foundation gave to schools, charities and hospitals, among other causes, over the five-year period, the giving could prove to be a liability for DeNeufville, who is vice president of the foundation, as the June primary approach.
DeNeufville campaign manager Gregg Edwards said donations from the foundation are often directed individually by the family members that sit on its board of directors.
The donations to Planned Parenthood, Edwards said, was made by one of the other board members, who The New Jersey Globe is not naming out of respect for their privacy.
Edwards declined to comment on the Tides Foundation donations, which he was made aware of later on Wednesday. He said he did not want to distract DeNeufville from a campaign appearance that night.
“Peter has been clear that he and his wife have not donated to Planned Parenthood, personally or through any foundation,” Edwards said.
But some questions remain about whether or not voters will care much about the distinction.
“He allowed it to happen. I don’t think that Republican primary voters are going to notice the difference there,” said Bill Pascoe, a conservative strategist. “He has a family foundation that’s funding the biggest abortion provider in the country – end of sentence. That’s going to hurt, that’s going to hurt a lot.”
DeNeufville’s stance on abortion may further complicate the issue for the candidate, whose viability is partly due to his ability to self-fund.
Edwards indicated that DeNeufville views abortion more favorably than many of his Republican rivals.
“Peter supports the US Supreme Court’s decision Roe vs. Wade, which allows for reasonable state regulation,” Edwards said. “As he mentioned last week at the debate in Randolph, he supports the terms of the 1976 Hyde Amendment which prevents Federal funding of abortion except in extreme cases.”
Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) has long opposed abortion rights, more than once voting against measures that would benefit Planned Parenthood.
At the Randolph debate last week, Bank of America executive Antony Ghee said he supports Planned Parenthood funding as long as that funding doesn’t go to abortion services.
Former concert promoter Patrick Allocco opposes abortion rights but has said he would reluctantly vote in their favor if that’s what the district’s voters wanted.
While abortion and Planned Parenthood funding are hotly-contested issues on the national stage, voters – even Republican voters – in the state tend to view them more favorably than Republicans elsewhere, said Ashley Koning, director of the Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
An Eagleton poll conducted released in December found that 57% of Republicans supported restoring funding for family-planning services like those provided by Planned Parenthood, services that former Gov. Chris Christie made a point of defunding.
“The Republicans in New Jersey are a particular kind of brand of Republican,” Koning said. “They’re not the kind that will necessarily adhere to strict ideology like Republicans in the rest of the country, so seeing a pro-choice Republican or a Republican supportive of Planned Parenthood and women’s health and women’s reproductive issues is not all that surprising.”
Indeed, Republicans with favorable stances on abortion rights don’t appear to be hampered by their views when seeking statewide office.
Kim Guadagno, the state’s former Lt. Governor, won the Republican nomination to run against Gov. Phil Murphy last year despite her pro-abortion-rights stance, and U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin, the Republican frontrunner to take on U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, views the issue favorably, only opposes late-term abortions if the mother’s life is not in danger.
Still, Pascoe said, the majority of Republican primary voters in the state are pro-life, and DeNeufville arguably faces a stronger field of candidates than Guadagno did or Hugin does.
“You can point to pro-choice republicans who have been successful in winning nominations,” Pascoe said. “I think you’re less likely to find a long line of pro-choice republicans who have been successful in winning statewide, or who have even been successful in winning a congressional district.”
Abortion is also the type of issue that people organize around, and Ben Dworkin, founding director of Rowan University’s Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship, said that organization could swing the balance one way or another.
“In a tightly-contested election, any organized group advocating on any issue can have a real impact on the outcome. That’s the bottom line there, whether it’s in the primary or in the general,” Dowrkinsaid. “This is why people organize, because when you are organized on a particular issue, your numbers are magnified.”
Marie Tasy, executive director of NJ Right to Life, the largest anti-abortion rights group in the state, did not return a request seeking comment about its numbers in the district or any planned voting drives, but the group has endorsed Webber.
Should DeNeufville eke out a victory in June, his stance on abortion could be enough to bring some moderates that might otherwise be put off by a conservative to his side, but those voters could be few and far between.
“We have fewer and fewer true independents in New Jersey,” Dworkin said. “Even if people are not officially affiliated with one party or the other, many quote-unquote unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly support one party or the other, so in the hyper-partisan political landscape that we have today, true swing voters are hard to find.”Roxiticus Foundation