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Weinberg: Is The Front Office Working For Gov. Christie Or Candidate Christie?

Senator Questions Use of Official Schedule to Promote Partisan Fund Raising Events

TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg today criticized the Governor’s Communications Office for promoting partisan fund raising events on the Governor’s official schedule, a move that appears in conflict with state ethics rules and, potentially, state campaign finance laws.

The Governor’s daily public schedule for today – e-mailed at 7 p.m. last night – notes that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor will have exactly one public event each; both events are political fund raisers. The schedule says that both events are “CLOSED” to the public.

The Senator noted that while the Governor and Lieutenant Governor may be involved in partisan political activities, state ethics guidelines specifically prohibit the “use of State time or State resources in the pursuit of political activities” by staff.

“The Governor’s press staff needs to decide whether they are working to promote their boss’s public policy initiatives or partisan fund raising activities,” said Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Promoting a fund raiser through an official governmental e-mail appears to fly in the face of established ethics rules. I can understand the desire of the Governor’s press staff to be more open given the recent flap over Reform Jersey Now, but two wrongs do not make a right.”

The Governor’s press staff also used his governmental schedule to publicize his appearance at an Ocean County Republican rally Monday to mark his first six-months in office. According to the Press of Atlantic City’s story announcing the event, “organizers ask those planning to attend to register by calling state Republican headquarters.”

The official schedule also was used to promote the Lieutenant Governor’s appearance at a May 1 meeting of the state Federation of Republican Women and a $75-per-head fundraiser for the Wall Township Republican organization on April 23.

Weinberg said that formal notice that the Governor or Lieutenant Governor would be attending a fund raiser makes it a more attractive event for prospective contributors. Since the notification of the event is going out through the Communications Office’s official e-mail list, she raised the question of whether such use violates ELEC rules as an unreported in-kind contribution to the sponsoring organization.

“As the most visible leaders of their party, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor certainly have a right to fund raise, but having governmental staff advertise these purely political events through official channels is just sloppy,” said Weinberg. “And while I do appreciate that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are working for established political committees and not their nonprofit stalking horse, certainly the Republican State Committee’s paid press staffer can’t be so busy as to not be able to handle these types of events.”