Analysis: Murphy Refuses to Shine Light on Dark Money
With a swipe of his veto pen, Gov. Phil Murphy this month decided to keep 10s of millions of political dollars that drive politics and public policy in New Jersey in the shadows.
New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) estimates $50 million in “dark money” was spent to influence elections and legislation in 2017, Philly.com reports. Without reforms, voters can’t know who is paying for advertising that seeks to influence their votes without voluntary disclosure, and that almost never happens.
Murphy conditionally vetoed the dark money disclosure bill, saying it did not go far enough, and dragged the reforms into his ongoing feud with Senate President Steve Sweeney and power broker George Norcross. The governor wants the disclosure requirements in the bill expanded to include companies that receive tax incentives. That’s a shot at Norcross, who is being indirectly targeted by a Murphy-ordered investigation into companies that have received state tax incentives for creating jobs and economic opportunities in Camden. Many of the companies that received those incentives have ties to Norcross.
Murphy also drew a line through a provision that prohibited elected officials from running interest groups that take donations to further a political agenda. It just so happens that Murphy friend and former campaign manager Brendan Gill runs such a group, called New Directions New Jersey. New Directions has strongly supported Murphy’s agenda, with millions in spending, but refuses to disclose its donor list.
A coalition of progressive groups tried to pressure Murphy to sign the bill earlier this month. The citizens group Represent New Jersey warned a veto would “effectively kill common-sense, dark-money reform," NJ Spotlight reports.
The bill passed with almost unanimous support in the legislature. The bill’s Democratic sponsors, state Sen. Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, said in a statement they were “flabbergasted” by the veto. They emailed the joint statement, titled “Politics at its worst," sharply criticizing the Governor’s claim the bill “fell short” of bringing greater transparency.
"The only thing that ‘fell short’ today was the governor’s will to truly address the behemoth of dark money that has eroded the public’s trust in our government and the political process,” they wrote.
Democrats have not said if they plan an override attempt of the Murphy veto.