A day ahead of an open State Investment Council meeting, news has emerged that New Jersey quietly sold its stake in a venture capital fund with ties to a Republican political donor. The $15 million investment of state pension money is under review following questions of whether political connections may have influenced the state’s choice.
The sale agreement, signed back in August and finalized in recent weeks, may be publicly disclosed tomorrow during the council meeting, Fortune reported Monday. The sale price was reportedly around 1.5 times the original cost of the investment. At the Tuesday meeting, New Jersey officials are likely to face questions about high fees and below-market returns from the council's choice of investments, as well as the possible ethics issue.
According to an ongoing International Business Times review of New Jersey’s pension system, the state’s 2012 investment in the General Catalyst Partners fund came just months after Charles Baker, the firm’s executive -- and now a Republican candidate for Massachusetts governor -- made a $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
IBTimes found at least five other examples of New Jersey pension investments that followed political campaign contributions. These particular investments have realized below-median performances, costing New Jersey taxpayers billions in unrealized gains, according to IBTimes reports.
The state Department of Treasury is reviewing whether the General Catalyst investment violated New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” laws, which are aimed at preventing pension funds from being invested as rewards for political support.
A treasury spokesman declined to discuss the sale agreement. “We do not have anything to comment on this matter before the State Investment Council meeting tomorrow,” spokesman Chris Santarelli told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. The department also declined to say whether the asset sale would stop the release of its findings as to whether the investment violated the law, the Newark-based paper said.
A spokesman for Charles Baker's campaign, Tim Buckley, said, "We are pleased that this matter appears to have been resolved," MassLive.com noted.