Dark money group that supports Murphy releases its donor list

Colleen O'Dea, NJ Spotlight | September 13, 2019 | Politics

A dark money group favorable to Gov. Phil Murphy has released a list of its donors that it had previously refused to make public — a refusal that ultimately led to Murphy’s being forced to sign a controversial law mandating transparency by politically active nonprofits.

New Direction New Jersey on Thursday reported that 25 donors have given nearly $6.8 million to the organization, which has spent more than $1.5 million so far promoting Murphy’s agenda via ads and its website.

There were few surprises on the list, which shows unions responsible for about 89 percent of all contributions. It did indicate, though, that the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) politically active nonprofit — Garden State Forward — gave more than was previously known: $4.5 million, or 66 cents of every dollar collected.

It’s unclear why New Direction, registered in early 2018 as a 501(c)(4) organization that is considered a dark-money group, decided to release a list of donors now. Initially, the organization said it would voluntarily disclose its funders despite the lack of a state law requiring it to do so.

But late last year, a spokesman reneged, citing the tense political atmosphere — Murphy and state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) have been engaged in a feud. That prompted Sweeney to fast-track a previously stalled bill requiring transparency of politically active nonprofit groups in the state.

Murphy first conditionally vetoed the bill, then signed it into law rather than face the embarrassment of having his veto overridden by a Legislature controlled by his own party. Calling the bill overly broad, Murphy said at the time that he expected legislators to correct problems with the new law. They haven’t, and now it faces two lawsuits arguing it is unconstitutional.

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