In New Jersey’s heretofore lukewarm Democratic primary many expect to be a coronation for frontrunner Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski is piling on after fellow Murphy opponent Jim Johnson announced that he will be filing a complaint to the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission alleging that he improperly used an ostensibly unaffiliated nonprofit group to raise funds and boost name recognition ahead of the actual nominating contest.
While Johnson says leaked emails show the Murphy campaign coordinating with the groups New Start New Jersey and New Way for New Jersey “to avoid disclosing some contributors and expenditures that were for the sole purpose of supporting his candidacy.” Murphy’s camp retaliated by accusing Johnson of helping to secure a $10 million no-bid contract for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton to “represent New York City in response to the federal investigation into allegations that the [Mayor Bill] de Blasio administration traded political favors for contributions.”
Under New Jersey law, those nonprofits were bound not to favor particular candidates. Now, Wisniewski is defending the Johnson complaint with Wisniewski campaign manager Robert Becker calling the Murphy camp’s response “typical of their Goldman Sachs mindset where the rules don’t apply to the wealthy elite.”
“The Johnson campaign dossier is well-documented and damning,” Becker said. “New Jersey’s election law is very definitive — if you are ‘testing the waters’ you must comply with financial disclosure laws. When 98% of your so-called non-profit’s spending goes to political consultants now working on your political campaign, it is impossible to argue how you weren’t violating the law.”
Johnson’s complaint is similar to one that Murphy himself filed against then-primary rival Steve Fulop, who he accused of improperly using his reelection campaign to improperly amass unreported funds for a gubernatorial bid. The agency often lacks the ability to investigate candidates’ complaints mid-election in time for any definitive conclusions to be reached or penalties meted out.
Murphy’s campaign responded by citing the origin of the emails, which showed contact between Murphy and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta during the hack of the DNC last summer. Murphy wrote that he hoped a policy-oriented 501(c)(4) “will give us visibility, credentials, etc.”
“Trenton insider John Wisniewski, who has spent months embroiled in an illegal pay to play scheme, is now going straight for the Trump playbook and referencing emails stolen by Russia to go after Democrats,” said the Murphy campaign’s Julie Roginsky. Maybe he would be better served to take his conspiracy theories to Breitbart, InfoWars, or any other blog that caters to those who side with hostile foreign powers against the Democratic party.”