According to an article by Matt Friedman/Statehouse Bureau in the Record and Star Ledger, “Private donors are helping Republicans bankroll their efforts to revise political maps that could determine which party controls the Legislature and the New Jersey delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives over the next decade.” In the article Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) identifies the fundraising organization as the Center for A Better New Jersey. This group seems to be a “reincarnation” of Reform Jersey Now, a 501 (c) (4), which raised funds in 2010 to promote Governor Christie’s agenda and then appears to have closed shop.
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Sen. Kean in the article says “The Center for a Better New Jersey is a not-for-profit entity.” To raise funds in NJ a non-profit is required to register with the Law Department’s Division of Consumer Affairs, obtain a Charities Registration Number, and report at least some financial data. Reform Jersey Now had registered with this group by mid 2010, provided its legal address (the home of its Treasurer Ron Gravino), and later provided a list of its donors. However, as of now there appears to be no record in Division of Consumer Affairs’ Directory of Registered Charities of this new group nor any registration number for it, which, if it is currently soliciting funds, suggests it might be doing so in contravention of the law.
The Center for a Better New Jersey did register with the N.J. Treasury Department as a corporation, Filing Number 0101001975, and listed itself as a not-for-profit company.
Nonetheless, the organization is not registered with other key reporting sources. It is not in the database of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), used for campaign financing and lobbying disclosure. It is not in the IRS database of exempt organizations. Nor is it in Guidestar database which provides general information and financial data on non-profits that report to the IRS – something which a 501 (c) (4) group is annualy required by law to do. Nor does the organization appear to have an easily discoverable website, as several efforts to use different ways of stating the group’s name (such TCFABNJ.org) have proven fruitless.
So once again we have another shadowy organization which might not even be in full compliance with the law. Certainly it is lacking in transparency. The various sources checked reveal no information as to its donors or expenses. It appears to be ignoring ELEC’s role in preventing Pay to Play violations. Reform Jersey Now, which seems to have started soliciting funds in 2010, did not publicly report its finances, and then only partially, under duress, and not through ELEC, until the end of the year. Center for a Better NJ will likely try to keep its own finances hidden throughout 2011, and then may or may not publicly report data at the end of the year. Finding out who the donors are and how the monies are expended in a 501 (c) (4) organization remains a challenge – one which both our legislature and the federal government should address.