Chris Christie’s inner circle is going Richard Nixon’s slush fund one better by openly alerting contributors they can they can circumvent rules designed to clean up state campaigns by writing big checks to Reform Jersey Now – in “unlimited amounts,” according to a flier obtained by Star Ledger. Christie’s headlining – as “special guest” – events populated with GOP high-donors, encouraged to deftly sidestep campaign finance limits Christie’s advocated, according to fundraising solicitation Star-Ledger obtained:
Reform Jersey Now contributions are not affected by the pay-to-play statutes … or by applicable executive orders,” says the solicitation, which sheds new light on Christie’s involvement with the group. Pay-to-play rules limit the amount of money that can be donated by those who get state contracts.
RJN’s touts itself as an “independent New Jersey non-profit,” but its website reads like an advertorial for Chris Christie. Radio ads (paid by RJN) urging listeners hit up legislators to urge Christie’s property tax cap. Dramatically-titled video clips of the governor’s “Town Halls” before carefully filtered audiences. A big, red contribute button. It’s unclear to me why a governor mowing down everybody in his path needs a secretly-financed public relations arm when he clearly has zero problem making himself understood all by himself. But if RJN is doing more than that, we don’t know. Spending is likewise cloaked. And it looks like serious money.
Spokestributor Mike DuHaime, strategist for McCain-Palin and Christie’s own election, told a reporter not everybody pays their $25,000 event ticket price, but he didn’t offer much math beyond that. He says they’re “playing by the rules as they exist”.
This may not be law-breaking. And this slush fund isn’t exactly the same as what brought Richard Nixon down. But it’s an obvious ethical black hole.
Christie, like Nixon, is a megalomaniac. And he surrounds himself, like Nixon, with a secretive cabal of loyalists willing to help him concentrate power because they … believe. And since the day of Nixon’s unraveling schemes, this kind of deal raises red flags. We don’t know if all this opacity is concealing wrongdoing. But Christie isn’t doing much to reassure that directing buddies to create a slush fund isn’t hypocritical, corrupt or a plan to avoid accountability.
And, after all, this is Christie, who already has plenty of transparency problems, history of questionable financial dealings, and a remarkable tendency to try and skirt responsibility. Wisniewski’s right to call this a “shadow campaign arm.”
DuHaime said RJN would “fully disclose” information on its donors – but not on its expenses – by the end of the year (read: after they’re done). RJN is a 501(c)(4); it’s not required by law to disclose donors, or follow NJ’s pay-to-play laws. If they registered as a NJ PAC, donations would have a $7,200 annual ceiling, with a $25,000 maximum donation to the GOP, and donations would be reported.