New Direction New Jersey, a non-profit group that has spent in the seven-figures supporting Gov. Phil Murphy’s political agenda, has decided not to disclose its donors.
“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.
Sweeney had previously called for the immediate release of the New Directions New Jersey donors, suggesting publicly that he expected the New Jersey Education Association to be among the group’s largest contributors.
“That’s not right,” Sweeney said in May. “They’re running the ads now. They should be releasing their donors right now.”
Allies of the governor note Committee for Our Children’s Future, non-profit run by supporters of then-Gov. Chris Christie, also declined to reveal their donors. Another group, Reform NJ Now, did disclose its donors.
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.
“I take them at their word. I’m sure they will. I’m not sure the timing, but I’m sure they will. I don’t want to speak for them,” Murphy said at the time.
The governor is legally barred from coordinating decisions made by the non-profit, including decisions on disclosing their contributors.
An earlier version of this story said that Reform NJ Now did not disclose donors. They did. It was the Committee for Our Children’s Future that did not disclose $7.8 million in spending.