TRENTON - A New Jersey-based advocacy group that is linked to Gov. Christie and pushes his viewpoints has raised nearly $624,000 since it launched in June, mostly from establishment Republicans and developers.
The nonprofit group Reform New Jersey Now, which is not subject to fund-raising or spending limits, voluntarily disclosed its donor list on Wednesday.
Several Christie advisers are affiliated with the organization, and the Republican governor headlined a $25,000-a-plate event it held in July.
Among the top donors, who each gave $25,000, were the Republican Governors Association Public Policy Committee, housing developer Toll Bros., and highway contractor George Harms Construction.
Critics say the unlimited, secret contributions skirt state laws created to stop the awarding of lucrative government contracts to political donors. Laws prohibit state agencies from awarding contracts worth more than $17,500 to companies that donate more than $300 to gubernatorial candidates or to county or state political parties.
"When you look at this list, you see lots of developers, builders, and other members of the construction industry's 'pavement lobby,' " said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "It's about special interests trying to get around campaign-finance laws. It's old-fashioned pay-to-play."
Democrats have said they would sponsor legislation to force such groups to abide by the state's pay-to-play laws.
Reform Jersey Now says it is an independent, policy-driven organization that wants to make New Jersey a more affordable place to live.
"As a small businessman and a longtime local councilman, I am proud of the role we have played in advocating for a property-tax cap, civil-service reform, arbitration reform, and pension and benefit reforms," said Chuck Shotmeyer, the group's president.
While saying Reform Jersey Now would no longer play an "active role" in advocating for such reforms, Shotmeyer said he hoped state lawmakers would soon take action on those and related matters.
"Serving in local office, I know we will never stop escalating property taxes without changing the status quo," he said.