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

Murphy declines to say who he solicited from for New Direction

Governor passes pay-to-play concerns off to New Direction

By Nikita Biryukov, September 12 2019 5:28 pm

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Gov. Phil Murphy declined to identify the groups from which he solicited money for a 501(c)4 non-profit run by his political advisers.

“I’m told they just released it. I literally haven’t seen the list,” Murphy said when asked which groups he requested give money to New Direction New Jersey. “They didn’t run it by me, and I’m thrilled they finally released it.”

Pressed on the issue again later, Murphy again declined to identify the firms, adding that he did not remember some of the organizations from which he solicited funds.

“In some cases, I don’t remember. I was asked a long time ago did I solicit, I think, NJEA, and I said yes,” Murphy said.

The group, which is run by three of Murphy’s political advisers, initially pledged to disclose its donors at the end of 2018 but later reneged on that promise, citing a “toxic political environment.”

The list of donors New Direction released Thursday showed the group received contributions worth more than $6.7 million, including $4.5 million from the New Jersey Education Association’s super PAC, Garden State Forward.

The bulk of the remaining funds were given by other unions, including $560,000 from the Communications workers of America, $350,000 from Local 32BJ SEIU and $300,000 from a foundation connected to the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

The group also received donations from two politically-connected law firms that have received state contracts during Murphy’s tenure.

DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick, Cole & Giblin gave $200,000 and Sills Cummis & Gross, which was hired by the governor’s office to conduct an independent investigation into the hiring of Al Alvarez, contributed $10,000.

Murphy declined to say whether those donations represented a circumvention of the state’s pay-to-play laws.

“Listen, I’ll let the New Direction folks speak for themselves. I solicited in some cases money, for that organization as many other folks do for other organizations,” the governor said. “I’ve not even seen this yet, so I’d like the benefit of that.”

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