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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

Republicans bombarded by interest groups after inquiry from Murphy’s office

Email address, phone number sharing an apparent ethics violation

By Nikita Biryukov, June 30 2018 6:17 pm

Days after a receiving a query from the governor’s office seeking to confirm their legislative and personal emails, Republican lawmakers have started to receive emails and text messages from the Democratic State Committee and interest groups supporting Gov. Phil Murphy in the ongoing fight over the state’s budget, blurring the line between governmental and political work.

Three Republican legislators – Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips and State Sen. Kristin Corrado – confirmed that they received an email from an executive assistant in the governor’s office on June 27. Not long thereafter, they began receiving emails from interest groups, unions and faith leaders supporting Murphy’s agenda, emails obtained by the New Jersey Globe confirm.

“Suddenly, I am being bombarded with dozens of emails a day from progressive leaders, CWA,” DiMaso said. “These people did not have my email address prior to this week. I’ve never received an email from any of them before I received the email from the governor’s office asking them to confirm my personal email address.”

The three legislators, all Republicans in their first full term, said they had never before received communications from the groups and did not sign up for any relevant mailing lists.

Then, shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday, legislators started receiving texts from interest groups on their personal cellphones.

The governor, like many elected officials, is supposed to maintain a wall between his governmental work and his political work. Using state resources for political purposes could amount to an ethics violation.

“It’s something that should be looked into, and we will be as soon as the budget’s done,” Corrado said.

DePhillips and DiMaso echoed that sentiment, saying they would seek to force the governor to explain the issue.

“It’s strikes me as unethical,” DePhillips said. “Certainly that issue should be researched and confirmed, but it seems to me that it’s unethical to share a legislator’s personal email information with interest groups that are lobbying in favor of your agenda without my consent.”

The governor’s office, first contacted for comment at 4:41 p.m., has yet to provide any. This article will be updated with that comment once it is received.

After this story was published, DePhillips sent letters to State Attorney General Gurbir Grewel, State Ethics Commission chairman Joseph LaSala, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin requesting that Murphy be investigated over the matter.

Murphy had been locked in a meeting with legislative leaders to try to find a budget compromise that could avert an embarrassing government shut down since roughly 2:20 p.m. Democratic lawmakers reached a compromise around 7 p.m. and will vote on the measures early Sunday morning.

In the past few days, both sides have levied media campaigns through surrogate groups supporting their respective sides in the budget fight.

Liz Gilbert, Executive Director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee did not return a voicemail left at 4:40 p.m. seeking comment. This article will be updated with comment when it is received.

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