Reform Jersey Now donors unmasked (partially)

Fifteen donors pooled their money to provide 60% of the funds used to power Reform Jersey Now, the shady slush fund created to privately boost Chris Christie’s agenda, and hit Democrats who might oppose it. The fund was created for the new governor by his GOP allies and run by Mike DuHaime, GOP strategist and the architect of Christie’s campaign, with former Franklin Lakes councilman Chuck Shotmeyer listed as president.

Was this list released today to divert attention from Chris Christie’s irresponsible decision to leave the state to avoid handling a messy snow emergency? The governor’s due back in New Jersey tomorrow.

After months of editorials harshly criticizing the fund’s obvious design to elude campaign finance laws created for the purpose of greater transparency in government, Reform is closing up shop. Rather than adhere to those rules, the architects of Reform chose to operate instead – legally, but probably unethically – under IRS rules. Creating Reform under those rules meant the fund was not technically obligated to show its finances or follow contribution limits adhered to by most politicians, such as those created to avoid pay-to-play advantages.

In a memo Reform released today, 244 donors are listed – including the core 15 – combining for a total raised of $623,784. Read the entire list here.

Missing is a list of the fund’s expenditures, so New Jerseyans can follow the impact of the private financing of the slush fund’s activities. For the most part, Reform acted in secret, but some of its projects are known: radio ads in June supporting Christie’s property tax agenda (and in no way making clear that the support came from a group organized around the governor), and a direct mail & robo-call campaign directed at Democratic lawmakers like senators Steve Sweeney and Paul Sarlo. Reform had a half-year life, and will shut down Friday.

Among the top contributors:

  • John Crowley (Princeton Twp), Amicus Therapeutics CEO who almost ran for US Senate in 2008, and the subject of a film about his children and their rare illness.

  • Sol Barer (Westfield), former CEO of Celgene Corp, a biotech firm.

  • Spencer Baretz & John Hellerman, of Hellerman Baretz Communications, a PR firm.

  • Mark Gerson (Summit), chair of Gerson Lehrman Group and a board member at ‘conservative’ think tank Manhattan Institute.

  • 2 national GOP committees; a policy committee under the Republican Governor’s Association, which made an adoring short film about Christie’s 2009 upset win that premiered in a D.C. theater, and the State Government Leadership Foundation.

  • Bayonne Medical Center, which is in the news today, actually.

  • Builders PAC.

  • 4 companies in the construction & development sector: Ferreira Construction Co., George Harms Construction, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, and home-builder Toll Brothers Inc..

  • Issues Mobilization Committee, a Realtors issues group.

  • Jeff Michaels, former chief of staff under Gov. Donald DiFrancesco

    follow me below the fold for more scandalous details.

    DiFrancesco is on Reform‘s board, along with Christie Whitman and Christie pal and adviser Bill Palatucci, who was Christie’s campaign treasurer, serves as a Republican National Committee member, and was named by NJ GOP Chair Jay Webber to the GOP’s 5-member redistricting team that will redraw New Jersey in the coming weeks. Last month, Democratic leaders called for Palatucci to resign the NJ Apportionment Commission until Reform came clean about its donors and activities, because there was no way to know if Christie’s shadowy Reform fund was subsidizing the Republicans’ mapdrawing efforts in redistricting. We still don’t know that. Among questions raised today by Democratic Chair John Wisniewski, are these: Why weren’t these names released before the election? Will the governor hold these donors to the same requirements as other contributors? Where did Reform spend, and who benefitted?

    Several of these entities raise concerns, among them Ferreira Construction, Harms Construction and Langan Engineering which each had contracts with state authorities in 2009 exceeding $17,500, as APP points out. Also, law firm partners Michael Perrucci and Douglas Steinhardt (who is Warren County GOP chair) each gave $22,500. Their firm held contracts with New Jersey Transit, NJ Meadowlands Commission & South Jersey Transportation Authority in 2009 and was hired last week by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

    I included links here for the list above because at first glance the connections to the ongoing GOP campaign of Gov. Christie, and what if anything these people and corporations might gain from their efforts to propel Christie’s agenda, well, those things are just not known. So those links are just to get you – and us – started to see who the people are who are behind Chris Christie’s still largely-secret (until we know what they did with their money) booster club.  

  • Comments (4)

    1. firstamend07

      The Governors ” best buddy” William Palatucci sits on the Board of Reform Jersey Now.

      He is currently trying to get his foot in the Corrections Department door by suggesting a privatization pilot program at either Southern State Prison or Edna Mahan women’s prison.

      Once “in the system” he can expand his operation. Palatucci is one of the Officers of the private CEC,Inc. which runs all the Halfway houses and currently has a $63 million contract with the NJDOC.

      At this time there is a waiting list of over 5,000 inmates hoping to attend educational programs. CEC would charge the State by the inmate once they get a “low bid” contract.

      “Buy low,Charge High!”

      Millions are at stake for William Palatucci!

      In last years Corrections Dept. budget Palatucci’s company was the only area to get a funding increase.  

    2. Jay Lassiter

      this is really juice although i agree, Rosi, this sure does seem times to “distract” from Chris Christie’s Disney debacle.  but it’s damn interesting and i hope others will joining me re-tweeting and posting on their FaceBook page.

    3. Bill Orr

      Below is further information about this group from my diary (D)eform Jersey Now of October 17.

      RJN on its website says it is “not affiliated with any political group or committee.” However, it supports only Republican causes and Governor Christie in particular. Its Advisory Board consists of Chuck Shotmeyer, President, (a recent Christie nominee to a state commission), former Governors Whitman and DiFrancesco, former Congressman Mike Ferguson (Christie advisor), William J. Palatucci, Esq. (Christie advisor and Sr. V.P. for Community Education Centers which does extensive business with the State), and other noted fundraisers, advisors and donors: Joseph Buckelew, Mitchell Modell, David Norcross, and Candace Straight. The contact address on the website using reverse White Pages turns out to be the home of John Visconi, who previously worked on Republican Bill Baroni’s election campaign, has specialties in election law and campaign finance, and has served as Law Clerk at Michael J. Lunga, Esq., LLC.

      The RJN website unsurprisingly features photos and videos of Christie and promotes his policies. In the donation section the site says recent contributions were “dedicated to its public policy purpose.” It also indicates, “Information filed with the Attorney General concerning this solicitation and the percentage of contributions received may be obtained from the N. J. Attorney General.” However, RJN’s AG file (Charity Registration Number: CH3286200) indicates no reported income nor expenses. The file does provide an RJN address which turns out to be the home of Ronald Gravino, another nominee for a state commission, who served as Treasurer for Christie’s campaign. Further checking with N. J. Election Law Enforcement Committee’s campaign financing and lobbying disclosure site and Guidestar’s IRS data site provided no reporting of financials nor any records for RJN.

      The above sheds more light on this shadow group, but indicates it still operates in almost darkness. As Sen. Barbara Buono said, “Groups like Reform Jersey Now need to live up to a higher ethical standard.” Democratic State Party Chairman Wisniewski has stated, “Any Republicans that claim interest in reform should immediately demand that Reform Jersey Now release its donors and expenditures.” In addition to federal action on 501 (C) (4)’s, it’s time for the NJ legislature to shine a spotlight on this organization, which by its secrecy is deforming rather than reforming Jersey.

    4. Louise

      There is no document available at the address that you give for the complete list of 244.

      How much did the national committees give?


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