Loretta Weinberg has formally called on the Democratic operative-led One New Jersey to disclose its donors and comply with the spirit of openness and transparency. One New Jersey’s 501(c)(3) structure does not by law require disclosure. However, Democrats raised up a mighty yell when two organizations dedicated to forwarding Christie’s agenda – Reform Jersey Now and Center for a Better New Jersey – began operating with exactly the same failure to disclose the figures financing it, and exactly the same kind of efforts to use a loophole the law provides to skirt transparency.
Text of Weinberg’s letter is after the jump.
Joshua Henne of White Horse Strategies, and a founder of One New Jersey with Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMicco of Message & Media, had this to say when I reached him:
We respect Senator Weinberg for her views on this issue. As we’ve said before, disclosure only works when everybody discloses.
In her letter, Weinberg acknowledges their efforts to counter the Governor’s message of far-right, vindictive and divisive politics. But though the law allows a (c)(4) advocacy organization to hold back its contributors, she holds them to a higher ethical standard than the law itself. Weinberg has sponsored legislation to require contributor disclosure from such tax-exempt organizations in the past. And her objections to the non-disclosure of Christie’s two groups, she says, apply to One New Jersey too.
More, and Weinberg’s letter, after the jump.
Weinberg is the Senator perhaps most closely associated with efforts to shine the light on the hidden workings of NJ government. Weinberg – who used OPRA multiple times to try and pry out of the front office key info about the workings behind Christie decisions. Weinberg, whose efforts to get sunshine on documents and the hidden workings of government didn’t begin or end with Christopher James Christie. Weinberg, who updated the rules that govern open public records and meetings for New Jersey. Weinberg, whose needling Christie used – in a bad attempt to be ironic – as an excuse to be less transparent about his daily schedule.
It’s easy to see why Democrats would want to fight Christie’s fire with the same fire, and with the same intrinsic benefit of doing that without giving GOP operatives any kinds of heads-up of what to expect, and where resources are coming from. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You’re either on the side of transparency, or you’re not. And if you’re not, you’re going to be dealing with harsh criticism and allegations of hypocrisy. Whether whatever One New Jersey and its backers have up their sleeve is worth their taking that hit, I do not know. And I don’t have to decide. They do. And it’s easy to wonder how many people secretly hope One New Jersey pulls out every stop, disclosure or not, against the Governor’s agenda.
Text of July 27 Weinberg letter to Lawrence & DeMicco of Message and Media, and Henne of White Horse Strategies:
Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMicco
Message and Media
White Horse Strategies, LLC
Dear Brad, Steve and Josh,
While I can certainly appreciate the sentiment behind One New Jersey, the 501(c)(4) non-profit organization which you recently began in an effort to combat Governor Christie’s message of far-right, vindictive and divisive politics, I have to respectfully disagree with the decision not to disclose your financial backers.
You have indicated that ONENJ is under no legal requirement, under current State or federal law, to report its contributors. However, just because it’s legal, doesn’t always make it ethical or in the public interest.
When Governor Christie and New Jersey Republicans used two separate tax-exempt non-profit organizations in thinly-veiled attempts to get around campaign finance and transparency rules, I raised objections. Those same objections apply to ONENJ, regardless of whether or not I agree with the message or mission of the organization.
I have sponsored legislation to require contributor disclosure from such tax-exempt organizations in the past. It’s clear that the legislation is still needed, and I will work within the Legislature to push the issue to the forefront. I sincerely hope that ONENJ will comply with the spirit of openness, transparency and accountability on its own, before it is forced to do so through a change in State law.
Gentlemen, I respect and have worked with you in the past. The decision not to disclose donors is completely wrong and should be immediately corrected.
I certainly believe there’s a place for ONENJ in the current political landscape in New Jersey. If operated the right way, this organization could be a powerful counter-voice to the Governor’s far-right ideology and the politics of punishing your enemies. This is a Governor who has waged war against the poor, middle class, women, families, the elderly, educators and property taxpayers throughout the State of New Jersey in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy and impose his personal politics on everyone else in the Garden State.
We should be able to combat the Governor’s destructive policies and out-of-touch politics while still being true to our own convictions of open, accountable government. I urge you to do the right thing and bring One New Jersey into the light of public scrutiny.
Thank you for your consideration.
Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen