A Princeton University group that was brought in to advise the independent, court-picked tiebreakers for congressional and legislative redistricting in New Jersey is being financed by donors with ties to national and state Democrats.
All three of the of the major funders listed on the Princeton Gerrymandering Project website – the Simons Foundation, Schmidt Futures and the Princeton-based Educational Ventures — have made substantial contributions to Democratic candidates, according to a review of Federal Election Commission filings by the New Jersey Globe.
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Two former judges named as the tiebreakers, John E. Wallace for congressional and Philip J. Carchman for legislative, brought the Princeton Gerrymandering Project into the room to help guide them. It’s not clear how they got there – Wallace and Carchman have not addressed that – but the result on the new House districts was that Wallace picked the Democratic map.
Marilyn Hawrys Simons, who heads the Simons Foundation, contributed $255,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2021. She has contributed nearly $11 million, including $10,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, $726,000 to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and $213,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2020.
Her husband, billionaire hedge fund manager James Simons, has made $172.9 million in campaign contributions, including $255,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2021. Simons donated $2.5 million to the House Majority PAC in 2020, and $5,600 each to the 2020 re-election campaigns of New Jersey Reps. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair).
Venture capitalist Robert F. Johnston, a Princeton resident who runs Educational Ventures, contributed $2,000 to Kim in 2021 and to seven Democratic U.S. Senate candidates over the last three cycles. His wife, Lynn Johnston, who serves on the Education Ventures board, has contributed nearly $193,000 to federal campaigns and committees, including donations to Kim and Malinowski for their 2020 re-election campaigns.
Johnston has ties to Princeton University: he is member of the advisory council to of the molecular biology department and a member of the Friends of the Institute for Advanced Study executive committee.
Billionaire Eric Schmidt, who spent a decade as Google CEO and now heads Schmidt Ventures, and his wife, Wendy, have contributed over $18 million to Democratic candidates. He gave $36,600 to the DCCC in 2021 and $10,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in 2020. He also donated $2,800 to Amy Kennedy’s 2020 House race.
Wendy Schmidt both contributed $13,700 to Malinowski’s congressional campaign, an additional $5,600 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in 2020, and $5,400 to Sherrill in 2018.
The Schmidt’s donated a combined $8,200 Kim’s congressional campaigns. In 2009, they seeded the Schmidt Transformative Technology Fund at Princeton University with a $25 million contribution.
Sam Wang, who heads the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, contributed $500 to Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign. A self-touted “unaffiliated voter,” Wang has voted in 9 of the last 10 primary elections in New Jersey; 8 of them were Democratic primaries.
The New Jersey Globe asked a spokesman for Princeton University, Michael Hotchkiss, for a full list of Princeton Gerrymandering Project donors at 11:07 AM. Hotchkiss has not yet done so, but this story will be updated if he does.
Wallace has faced criticism for initially saying that he voted for the Democratic map because Republicans won the congressional map ten years ago. Later, under an order from the New Jersey Supreme Court to amplify his reasons, Wallace said he liked the Democratic map better.
Republicans have filed a lawsuit challenging the House map, citing potential conflicts connected to campaign contributions to and from Wallace’s wife, Barbara, a former Washington Township mayor.
Democrats and Republicans assiduously avoided academics as tiebreakers this year, proposing a roster of mostly former judges for the congressional and legislative commissions. Social media, both parties have said, have made political science professors appear less independent than in the past.
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner seemed to agree with a break from the academicians who exclusively held tiebreaker positions since the 1960s and selected Carchman, a former appellate court judge and administrative director of the state court system.
Nationally, Democrats have been more interested in gerrymandering as an issue, so it’s not entirely surprising that Democratic donors would fund a redistricting watchdog group.