An International Business Times review this week of the Republican Governors Association -- a group that raises and spends money to bring more governorships into the party fold -- showed it booked a conspicuous slice of money from companies that have had contracts with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration in New Jersey. While under Christie’s leadership, the RGA has harvested a record $102 million in the past year. Now, it appears two people close to the New Jersey governor also benefited financially from Christie’s RGA chairmanship, NJ.com reported.
Records show longtime political strategist Mike DuHaime, a partner at the public-strategy firm Mercury Public Affairs, and Cam Henderson, a former chief of staff for New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie, both received lucrative consulting contracts from the RGA, NJ.com said.
Mercury Public Affairs received $180,000 in political-consulting fees between the time Christie was elected RGA chairman in November of last year and September of this year, according to Internal Revenue Service filings reviewed by NJ.com. The firm was paid $18,000 per month and billed an additional $12,338 for travel reimbursements during the period.
The RGA also paid at least $87,500 to KCH and Associates, a limited liability company formed by Henderson in March, NJ.com said. The company has been paid $12,500 a month since its formation, equivalent to an annual salary of $150,000. This yearly figure would amount to $10,000 less than Henderson made while running the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund founded by Mary Pat Christie from December 2012 to February 2014.
RGA representative Jon Thompson told NJ.com the monthly payments to Henderson’s firm were for “fundraising logistics, travel arrangements for the RGA chairman and donor maintenance” and that the group used DuHaime as well as other consultants at his public-strategy firm.
An IBTimes review of the RGA’s campaign-finance reports found many examples of contributions made by firms with business before the Christie administration. Proponents of tighter campaign-finance rules said this is no coincidence. In their telling, Christie effectively has been using New Jersey as the goodie bag for companies willing to deliver funds to the RGA, handing out taxpayer-financed state contracts as rewards for those who participate.
Neither Christie nor the RGA have responded to IBTimes requests for interviews.
In just the RGA’s last quarterly filing before the November election, 15 companies with business before the Christie administration contributed almost $600,000 to the organization. During the entire election cycle, those 15 companies have given more than $1.5 million to the group. Some of the firms build roads and others engineer bonds; some consult on financial management and others run parts of the state lottery. But many have one thing in common: Had they written their checks to Christie’s campaign instead of the RGA, they might be vulnerable to a state enforcement action.
The companies that contributed the money to the RGA generally described those donations as endorsements for good government while rejecting any notion they advanced the funds as a form of payment for the business they have with the Christie administration. Some noted they donate to RGA and the Democratic Governors Association alike. But the Democratic Governors Association, which has raised significantly less money than has the RGA, is chaired by Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont -- whose state is far smaller than New Jersey and therefore has far fewer opportunities to award contracts to conduct state business.
According to an IBTimes review of campaign finance documents, road construction contractors and transportation consultants doing business with New Jersey made a combined $90,000 worth of RGA donations in the third quarter of this year.
*The original, in-depth report on the IBTimes review of the RGA’s campaign-finance records can be viewed here.