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Perkins Coie partner Jonathan Berkon, the counsel to the Murphy for Governor campaign

Murphy campaign may have violated state law

Berkon was Murphy, Brennan go-between, but campaign didn’t report value of his legal services

By Nikita Biryukov, January 09 2019 4:38 pm

The Murphy for Governor campaign may have violated state campaign finance laws by not reporting a donation of legal services by attorney Jonathan Berkon, who acted as an intermediary between Gov. Phil Murphy and Katie Brennan regarding her allegation that another administration official, Al Alvarez, raped Brennan during the 2017 gubernatorial campaign.

Speaking generally, New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Deputy Director Joe Donohue said that in-kind contributions, such as those constituted by professional services for which the campaign does not pay, generally have to be reported.

It’s possible Berkon’s discussions with Murphy Chief Counsel Matt Platkin, Brennan and other administration officials constitute such a contribution because the firm was not paid.

But, Berkon’s work on that matter could also be voluntary. Personal services provided on an unpaid, voluntary basis do not need to be reported as in-kind contributions, Donohue said.

It’s not clear whether Berkon’s work on matters related to Brennan’s allegations constitute voluntary services. Berkon did not respond to a call seeking comment made at 4:10 PM Wednesday.

Murphy campaign treasurer Rob Long told the New Jersey Globe earlier Wednesday that Berkon had “absolutely not” paid Berkon for conversations about Brennan’s allegations with her and other administration officials.

Berkon’s law firm, Perkins Coie, received $388,205 from Murphy’s campaign in 2016 and 2017. It received no money from the governor’s campaign committee in 2018, and the amount of debt the campaign owes to the law firm remains unchanged from Oct. 24, 2017, when the law firm filed an invoice totaling $13,456.

ELEC filings show Berkon has made two $500 contributions to Murphy’s campaign, one in 2016 and one in 2017. No such contributions have been reported in 2018.

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