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Christie names Democratic operative to Rutgers board

Gov. Christie has nominated to the Rutgers University board of governors a Democratic political strategist who in 2013 oversaw a fund-raising effort that underwrote attack ads against New Jersey Republicans running for the Legislature.

Gov. Christie has nominated to the Rutgers University board of governors a Democratic political strategist who in 2013 oversaw a fund-raising effort that underwrote attack ads against New Jersey Republicans running for the Legislature.

Susan M. McCue, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), is a New Jersey native and Rutgers graduate. She launched the Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security, a super PAC that in 2013 spent more than $8 million in support of Democrats vying for seats in the New Jersey Legislature.

That was the year Christie, a Republican, won reelection by a 22-point margin to a second term while his fellow Republicans failed to gain seats in the Legislature.

Also nominated to the board Tuesday was Mark A. Angelson of New York, a former deputy mayor to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, and former chief of staff to President Obama.

The nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.

It was unclear what impact their appointments might have on the board, whose composition has been the subject of fights in recent years between State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and some at Rutgers who fear South Jersey Democrats' political interference.

The conflict is rooted in the 2012 proposal to merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University. That plan, backed by Christie and South Jersey Democrats, was scuttled following protests by students, faculty, and alumni.

"Both nominees are well-recognized Rutgers graduates," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak wrote in an e-mail. "They also possess deep experience in public service, public policy, and in business, all of which will serve the university well at this time of extraordinary growth and change."

Messages left with representatives of both nominees were not returned.

McCue has ties to George E. Norcross III, a Christie ally and powerful South Jersey Democratic leader, who helped raise money for the super PAC. A spokesman for Norcross declined comment.

Among independent-expenditure groups, the political action committee's spending on the 2013 state elections was second only to one allied with the New Jersey Education Association, according to an Election Law Enforcement Commission analysis.

Reid hosted a fund-raiser this year in South Jersey for Norcross's brother Donald, a former state senator who was elected to Congress in November to represent the First District.

In August, William Tambussi, a lawyer who has represented George Norcross, was confirmed by the state Senate to serve on the Rutgers board. Tambussi was nominated by the governor.

Christie and Norcross have worked together on issues related to Camden. The governor's chief of staff, Kevin O'Dowd, recently left the governor's office for a job at Cooper University Hospital, where Norcross is chairman of the board of trustees.

McCue also serves on the board of American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC that does opposition research on Republican politicians, according to an online biography.

On its website, American Bridge calls Christie a "trash-talking, traffic-stopping bully," referring to the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal. "He'll be damned if a constituent or the truth are going to come in between him and his narrative."

She is president of a public affairs firm, Message Global, that describes its mission as "to advance social movements, political campaigns, and corporate sustainability programs in the U.S. and globally."

Christie announced the nomination Tuesday. The 15-member board is responsible for university operations, including setting tuition.

Sweeney has unsuccessfully sought to increase the number of political appointees who serve on the board, a move some at Rutgers saw as a power grab.

The governor appoints eight members to the board of governors, while a separate board of trustees, which Sweeney has sought to abolish, appoints seven.

Rutgers hired the other nominee, Angelson, this year to be a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. He would have to resign that job to join the board, said Drewniak. The board position is not paid.

Angelson graduated from Rutgers College and Rutgers Law School, according to his online biography. He is a trustee and treasurer of the Institute for International Education, a nonprofit that says it manages scholarships, training, exchange, and leadership programs.

McCue and Angelson are members of the Council on Foreign Relations. They would replace Ralph Izzo, whose term has expired but who continues to serve, and the Rev. William Howard, who stepped down in the summer.