NJ Politics Digest: Where Does Murphy Actually Stand on Dark Money?

Gov. Murphy claims to want to bring greater transparency to government. But he continues to raise money for a group funded by anonymous donors, or "dark money."

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy.
Gov. Phil Murphy. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Phil Murphy says he wants to bring greater transparency to state government.

But the governor has conditionally vetoed a bill that would shed light on donors to “dark money” political organizations and, as The Record reports, keeps raising money for just such a group that is running ads in support of his plan to raise taxes in this year’s budget.

As The Record reports, the New Jersey Education Association, a powerful state teachers’ union, is the only group that is known to have contributed to the dark money group New Direction New Jersey, which refuses to say—and is legally not required to reveal—who its donors are. While Murphy refuses to directly say whether or not he has asked the union to support New Direction, the governor has said he is raising funds for the group and has “spoken to the NJEA constantly” in the last five years, “including around New Direction, but far more often on policy.” Murphy has appeared in ads paid for by New Direction each of the last two years as he’s fought to raise new taxes in the state.

Murphy is currently locked in a battle with legislative leaders of his own party. Senate President Steven Sweeney says the state is in a fiscal crisis and must cut spending and look to reform the benefits paid to public workers to bring the benefits more in line with those received by state residents in the private sector. But Murphy, who is closely aligned with public workers’ unions, opposes making cuts and wants to impose higher taxes on the state’s top earners to fund his progressive agenda. Sweeney contends such increases will only drive high-earning residents out of the state, a view echoed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has refused to impose a new “millionaires’ tax” in his own state.

Murphy and the Legislature must agree on a budget by July 1 or the state government will be shut down. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have said they won’t support Murphy’s millionaires’ tax plan, and Murphy has indicated he is willing to shut down New Jersey’s government in order to win the tax increase.

Sweeney has introduced a package of bills aimed at reining in government spending, including steps to reform public health benefits and change pensions for new hires. The senate president has said he will put his plan—originally formulated by a blue-ribbon panel of economists and policy experts who studied the state’s financial condition—to voters in a referendum if Murphy will not approve it.

Quote of the Day:  “As a general matter, I was a aware of the NJEA support. I can’t recall when I became aware of it,” — Gov. Phil Murphy, on raising money from the powerful teachers’ union for the dark money group New Direction New Jersey, which supports Murphy’s call for a state millionaires’ tax.

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NJ Politics Digest: Where Does Murphy Actually Stand on Dark Money?