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Gov. Phil Murphy

Murphy-aligned group to disclose donors at end of year

Attorney says transparency not required, but will happen anyway

By Nikita Biryukov, May 07 2018 6:54 pm

New Direction New Jersey, 501c4 non-profit group with ties to Gov. Phil Murphy will not disclose a list of its donors until the end of the year, according an attorney for the group.

“By law, New Direction NJ 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. “Nonetheless, as promised, New Direction NJ will voluntarily release a list of its donors at the end of the year.”

Because of a 1958 Supreme Court decision, groups like New Direction NJ are not required by law to disclose their donors, but Brendan Gill, a senior adviser to the group and former Murphy campaign manager, told Politico last year that the group would disclose its donors in the interest of transparency.

The delay is a confirmation of rumors that warned of a lengthier disclosure timeline that will likely upset transparency advocates.

Murphy at a press conference on Monday would not call on the organization to immediately disclose its donors.

“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, ducking a question on whether he would call for immediate disclosure.

The non-profit group drew headlines last month after Gill threatened to target Democratic legislators blocking Murphy’s agenda with television and radio ads. Gill later walked the back the threat

“New Direction New Jersey is focused on a positive mission of building a stronger and fairer New Jersey. Any indication of exerting negative pressure on legislators was a mischaracterization on my part,” Gill said in a statement last month.

Independent non-profit advocacy groups are something of a long-standing tradition in New Jersey. Former Gov. Chris Christie agenda saw support from a similar group, named Reform Jersey Now, in 2010, and a group of Democratic operatives retaliated in 2011 by starting a similar group, called One New Jersey.

At this time, there are a number of bills, with Republican and Democratic sponsors, that would strengthen disclosure requirements for these groups working their way through the legislature. But all of those bills have just been introduced. They have yet to come before their respective committees and are a long way from a vote before either chamber of the legislature.

So while stricter disclosure requirements may come in the future, they won’t be here for some time.

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