Potential Republican congressional candidate Rosemary Becchi says she does not plan to disclose the donors to a dark money non-profit she runs.
Becchi, who is mulling a challenge to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) in New Jersey’s 7th district next year, is the founder of Jersey First, a 501 (c)(4) that advocates for lower taxes. She has said that the group plans to raise money for legislative, freeholder and municipal candidates in New Jersey this year.
The decision to keep their donors secret comes at a time when state leader are moving toward legislation that would require it.
“She’s missing the moment,” said Micah, Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
Rasmussen said that Becchi’s refusal to reveal her group’s dark money sources put’s her in “kind of an untenable situation” as she explores a bid for the Republican congressional nomination at a time when lawmakers are backing legislation that would require issue advocacy groups like Jersey First to report certain contributions while working in New Jersey.
The Senate voted 31-0 to approve the measure, which was fast-tracked by Senate President Steve Sweeney after New Direction New Jersey, a non-profit with ties to Murphy, reversed a pledge to release their donors.
“We have this moment of consensus between Democratic and Republican legislators and the governor that this legislation should move,” Rasmussen said. “She’s kind of an outlier. She’s missing the opportunity to run on a good government platform.”
A former Republican U.S. Senate staffer and IRS attorney, Becchi now works for a Washington lobbying firm.
Last month, Becchi denied talking about her possible candidacy with Republican officials, although five GOP leaders told the New Jersey Globe that she had discussed her fledgling congressional campaign with them.
Becchi has hired Brian Murray, a former spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, as an advisor at Jersey First.
Malinowski, a freshman who unseated five-term Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton) last year, is considered one of the top Republican targets next year.
He beat Lance by 16,400 votes (52%-47%) in a district that has 6,224 more Republicans than Democrats. Hillary Clinton carried the 7th by one percentage point against Donald Trump, but Republican Kim Guadagno won the district against Gov. Phil Murphy in 2017.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) appears to be the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.
So far, only Tom Phillips, political newcomer from Scotch Plains, has entered the race.