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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Sweeney: SIC nominees could be confirmed in time for September meeting

By Nikita Biryukov, September 04 2018 4:52 pm

Phil Murphy’s nominees to the State Investment Council have been in limbo since the governor announced the eight would-be members in April, but while the lack of a full compliment forced the Council to cancel its July meeting, Senate President Steve Sweeney indicated that they could be confirmed in time for the meeting at the end of this month.

“I gotta look at them first, but we’ll make sure they have a quorum,” Sweeney said on Tuesday, adding that it was possible the nominees would be confirmed in time for the September meeting.

It’s not clear what the reason for the holdup is, but Sweeney downplayed the possibility of delay of the confirmations being a sign of another spat between the freshman governor and his counterpart in the State Senate.

Sweeney even said that the Senate would likely confirm all of Murphy’s council nominees.

“I don’t see it, to be honest with you. I don’t see it,” Sweeney said when asked if he thought any of the nominees would fail to be confirmed. “We have to – look to be perfectly honest with you, they told us everyone had resigned, and they didn’t. There were some people that were held over, so I have to look at it.”

Nine of the council’s 16 seats are filled at the moment, including one of the eight the governor has the power to appoint to fill.

James Hanson II, who was appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2010, holds that seat and has not indicated plans to give it up.

The remaining nominees are picked mostly by the unions whose pensions the council oversees.

The State Investment Council has drawn some attention lately over investments in a Chatham-based investment it was encouraged to make by Christie during his administration.

Chatham Asset Management has drawn attention largely because of its 2014 buyout of American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, among other outlets.

David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, was recently given immunity by Special Counsel Robery Mueller in exchange for testimony on President Donald Trump’s knowledge of a catch-and-kill operation targeting negative stories of the then-candidate undertaken by the tabloid during the 2016 election.

Though Murphy supported a bill blocking the state’s public pension fund from investing in companies that boycotted Israeli goods or supported the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement on the campaign trail, he appears to have flipped on that stance in recent weeks.

In July, he conditionally vetoed two similar measures. One of those measures would have banned the fund from investing in businesses that foreclosed homes in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, while the other would have done the same for companies that did not follow environmental laws relating to superfund site cleanup.

On Friday, Murphy reinforced that stance, saying that he did not see himself intervening in the Council’s investments as Christie did.

“I don’t view myself as a stock picker as the governor,” Murphy said.

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