One NJ will not disclose its contributors

One New Jersey, the 501 (C)(4) launched this week by progressives in an effort to serve as a watchdog over elected officials the group says are harming New Jersey families, has no plans to disclose its donor list according to a spokesman for the group.

The refusal to name its funders comes despite months of protest from Democrats over a conservative group with a similar mission that refused to give up its donor list last year.  But despite the apparent course reversal, spokesman Joshua Henne said One New Jersey will abide by the law, which does not require disclosure of contributors to the non-profit organizations.

“The Christie administration has subjected New Jersey’s families to a steady stream of lies, abuse and vindictiveness,” said Henne of political consulting group Whitehorse Strategies. “Two weeks ago, we all saw Governor Christie use his office to punish those who dare disagree with him. For those of us on the progressive side, we can either sit idly by and watch Chris Christie, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and corporations set the agenda and hurt New Jersey’s middle-class and working families….or we can speak the truth. ONENJ follows both the letter and spirit of the law.  We have a very simple mission: standing up for New Jersey families and standing up to any politician who attacks them.”

Last year, Reform Jersey Now, a conservative group that counted two Republican former governors among its directors, raised hackles in Democratic circles when it funded glossy mailers and radio ads in favor of Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed cap on municipal tax levies.

While the group said it would eventually disclose its donors, Democrats were upset at the delay and called for the immediate release of the list.  Several Democratic legislators, including Assembly Representatives Linda Greenstein, (D-14), Plainsboro, and John Wisniewski, (D-19), Sayreville, Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, Senate  Majority Leader Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen, and Sens. Nicholas P. Scutari, (D-22), Union, and Paul Sarlo, (D-36), Wood-Ridge, pushed for legislation requiring organizations like Reform Jersey Now to disclose contributors.

In December, Reform Jersey Now disclosed that it had raised more than $600,000 from dozens of donors.  The disclosure of the list set off another round of outrage over the presence of several  state contractors as well as others Democrats said were looking for favors from the administration.

“Groups like Reform Jersey Now are simply fronts for their political parties, so they should be treated just like an arm of a political party,” Sweeney said last July at a press conference announcing his intent to introduce legislation requiring disclosure. “They should be subject to the state’s financial disclosure laws. And they should have to live by the same pay-to-play laws that political parties do, too.”

A second Republican group, known as Center for a Better New Jersey, helped fund the GOP’s legislative redistricting effort.  The group, run by Sen. Tom Kean Jr., never released its list of contributors.  Democrats took issue with that organization as well, claiming that the redistricting process was being funded by Republican special interests.

Along with Henne, One New Jersey was founded by longtime Democratic political consultants Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMicco of Message and Media, and Steve Rosenthal of The Organizing Group. 

According to a release issued Monday, the group plans to hold accountable any elected official who sides with “Wall Street over Main Street.” In a none-too-subtle shot at the governor, the group makes reference to the now-infamous helicopter ride Christie took to his son’s ball game, saying they will expose the hypocrisy of any official who takes “free helicopter rides at taxpayers’ expense.”

Its website, launched Monday, boasts articles written by state media outlets as well as its own staff, a section for press releases and a “Christie by the numbers” tab detailing budget cuts, job losses and money doled out for what the group calls “corporate bailouts,” which includes the incentives given to the group developing the Revel Casino and a second developer that took over the stalled Xanadu project.

Another section, which promises to be particularly polarizing, is a Christie Fact check section with the goal of “examining the reality behind the rhetoric.”

“Shadow PACS” are nothing new in the Trenton culture and both sides have used them to their advantage.  Former Gov. Jon Corzine formed his own entity to help further his toll privatization goals and Republicans ripped the Democrat for subverting campaign finance laws.

One NJ will not disclose its contributors