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

Murphy won’t ask group to immediately disclose donors

By Nikita Biryukov, May 07 2018 4:08 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday would not call for a non-profit started by three of his top campaign advisers to follow through on a promise to immediately disclose their donors.

“I take them at their word. I’m sure they will. I’m not sure the timing, but I’m sure they will. I don’t want to speak for them,” Murphy said, sidestepping a question on whether he would call for New Direction New Jersey to immediately disclose its donors.

Brendan Gill, the group’s senior advisor and Murphy’s former campaign manager, told POLITICO in November that the group would disclose its donors, even though it is not required to do so by law.

But months have passed since then, and there’s been little word from the group about when such disclosures might come.

Then after this story was published, Jonathan Berkon, a partner in Perkins Coie’s political law group and counsel to New Direction New Jersey, told The Globe that the group would disclose its donors at the year’s end.

“By law, New Direction NJ is not required to publicly disclose its donors,” said Berkon said. “Nonetheless, as promised, New Direction NJ will voluntarily release a list of its donors at the end of the year.”

Political action by 501(c)(4) non-profit groups like New Direction New Jersey is regulated differently than that of political action committees. Though a majority of the work by a 501(c)(4) group must relate to promoting social welfare, the groups are not prohibited from engaging in politics, and because of a 1958 Supreme Court case, they do not need to disclose their donors.

New Direction New Jersey isn’t the only non-profit group to land Murphy in hot water. POLITICO on Monday reported that a charity organization that Murphy’s inaugural committee fundraised for paid for several inauguration-related events.

While unusual, the setup might not be improper.

“We believe, based on prior precedent, and based on the amount of lawyers who looked at this … I think we did – the team did – a good job of complying and doing things the right way,” Murphy said on Monday, adding that the New Jersey State Election Law Enforcement Commission “opined that we were in a good place.”

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