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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Murphy says group should disclose donors

Governor wants disclosure laws strengthened

By David Wildstein, January 04 2019 1:32 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy says that a non-profit group run by his allies to support his political agenda should disclose their donors.

“I think they should disclose their donors, as should all similar groups. But the fact that we’re discussing what any one group should or shouldn’t do above and beyond the law, rather than all groups, is indicative of the problem. We must strengthen our disclosure laws,” Murphy said.

New Direction New Jersey said last week that they had decided not to disclose the source of their donors, even though they had indicated earlier in the year that they would.

Murphy’s call for the release of contributors does not necessarily mean the group will do so.

Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for the group, declined to say if Murphy’s announcement will affect their decision.

“We have no further comment at this time,” Swibinski said.

Last week, New Direction New Jersey defended their decision not to make the sources of their seven-figure contributions public.

“While the organization has done nothing but work to promote a progressive policy agenda, it and our supporters have come under increased attacks from powerful special interests seeking to preserve the status quo in recent months,” said Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for the group. “Due to the toxic political environment these sustained attacks have fostered, the organization has decided not to exceed its legally-mandated disclosure requirements this year.”

Swibinski says the group is in full compliance with IRS regulations and state law.

The decision not to disclose donors or expenditures reverses a pledge made last spring to do exactly that.

“By law, New Direction New Jersey is not required to publicly disclose its donors,” said Jonathan Berkon, a partner in Perkins Coie’s political law group and counsel to New Direction New Jersey said in April. “Nonetheless, as promised, New Direction New Jersey will voluntarily release a list of its donors at the end of the year.”

Murphy has been battling fellow Democrats during his first year in office and has a strained relationship with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

The 501(c)(4) non-profit was formed by three former campaign aides – Brendan Gill, Steve DeMicco and Brad Lawrence — after the 2017 gubernatorial election to support Murphy’s policies.  They have run television and digital ads on and off since May.

In May, Murphy said he expected the group would disclose its donors but stopped short of demanding they do so.

This story was updated at 2:00 PM to reflect a response from New Directions New Jersey.

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