NJ Politics Digest: Murphy’s Problems Just Won’t Go Away

NEWARK, NJ, UNITED STATES - 2019/01/08: U.S. Representative Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) seen speaking at a news conference at Newark Liberty International Airport to demand an end to the partial government shutdown leaving thousands of federal workers in New Jersey without pay and to highlight the impacts of lost services being felt statewide. At Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey.

NEWARK, NJ, UNITED STATES – 2019/01/08: U.S. Representative Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) seen speaking at a news conference at Newark Liberty International Airport to demand an end to the partial government shutdown leaving thousands of federal workers in New Jersey without pay and to highlight the impacts of lost services being felt statewide. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gov. Phil Murphy is facing another political controversy, this time about a so-called social welfare organization that is producing commercials featuring the governor, pushing his agenda and refusing to disclose who is funding its efforts.

New Direction New Jersey is not legally required to say who funds its efforts, but as Murphy battles fellow Democrats who control the state legislature and yet don’t support his progressive agenda, questions continue to plague the governor about who is trying to help him.

The regulations that allow New Directions to withhold its donors list also requires it function independently of elected officials. But Murphy appears in the group’s ads promoting his plan to quickly raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, or more than $31,000 annually for someone who works 40 hours per week. The group is run by Brendan Gill, the governor’s former campaign manager, and three other senior Murphy advisers, according to a report by NJ.com.

As Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi told NJTV News, “How do you say you’re separate from the 501(c)4 when you are appearing in the ads, when the ads solely are there for your agenda?”

Murphy has paid lip service to publicizing the donor list but has not giving any hint of what he knows about who is paying for the ads and supporting his agenda. Group officials say the “toxic political environment” make it necessary to hide their donors’ identities. And Murphy hasn’t indicated that he wants the group to pull its ads, or that he will no longer appear in them.

NJ.com reports that the Murphy administration has referred the matter to State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a Murphy appointee, who may look into the donation.

Quote of the Day: “We’re continuing to see the same problems we saw in 2018, and that’s unacceptable,” — Assemblyman Tony Bucco, on continuing problems with NJ Transit Service, even as Gov. Phil Murphy and transit officials told commuters that service would begin to improve.

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NJ Politics Digest: Murphy’s Problems Just Won’t Go Away