Top New Jersey Papers Largely Overlook NJ Pension "Pay-To-Play" Allegations

››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

New Jersey's major newspapers largely failed to cover allegations of ethical misconduct involving the state's public pensions and prominent political donors with ties to the Christie administration, mentioning the alleged "pay-to-play" scandal only three times collectively despite the allegations receiving several months of national media attention.

Governor Christie Reportedly Linked To Three Pension Investment Contracts Given To Political Donors

Multiple Reports Claim Governor Christie Awarded Pension Investment Contracts To Republican Donors Linked To His Campaigns. Since March 18, at least three articles claim that on separate occasions, Governor Christie rewarded Republican donors to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and Republican Party of New Jersey with lucrative contracts to invest and manage a portion of New Jersey's pension fund for public employees. [The Nation, 3/18/14; PandoDaily, 4/18/14; The Boston Globe, 5/9/14]

New Jersey Papers Overlook Alleged Pension Investment Scandal

New Jersey Papers Largely Missed Alleged Misuse Of Pension Investment Contracts. A Media Matters review of major New Jersey newspapers from March 18 through May 20 found The Star-Ledger, The Record (Bergen County), Asbury Park Press, and The Times of Trenton published 31 news articles collectively mentioning Governor Christie's proposal to cut public pension outlays or the recent financial constraints of New Jersey's pension system. Yet, The Star-Ledger, The Record, and Asbury Park Press each mentioned the pay-to-play allegations in the same article as the pension shortfall once, while the Times Of Trenton never mentioned the allegations at all in their pension shortfall coverage.

Star-Ledger: New Jersey Pension Funds Invested In Hedge Fund After Managers Donate $500,000. The Star-Ledger mentioned an investment of pension funds made into a hedge fund managed by Paul Singer and Daniel Loeb after the pair each contributed $500,000 to the RGA during Christie's chairmanship. The paper did not link the donation to the overall scandal allegations:

Honeywell's political action committee also gave $100,000 to the RGA in 2012, when Christie was the organization's vice chairman, as well as in 2013. In addition, GTECH -- a co-owner of Northstar New Jersey, which signed a 15-year contract to take over sales and marketing operations of the New Jersey Lottery in June -- gave $100,000 on March 27. It has given similar amounts since at least 2010.

[...]

The National Rifle Association donated $50,000 on Jan. 31. And two billionaire hedge fund managers and potential Christie presidential boosters, Paul Singer and Daniel Loeb, each gave $500,000. New Jersey's pension fund has invested in both of their hedge funds. [The Star-Ledger, 4/17/14, emphasis added]

Asbury Park Press: Pension Funds Invested In Hedge Fund "Months After [Partner] Donated $10,000" Following reports by The Boston Globe, the Asbury Park Press raised questions over investment of New Jersey pension funds into the hedge fund managed by a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and New Jersey Republican State Committee donor:

A state pension fund overseen by Gov. Chris Christie funneled $25 million to an investment firm where a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate is a partner, only months after the man donated $10,000 to the New Jersey Republican State Committee, according to the Boston Globe.

The Republican candidate, Charlie Baker, told the Globe he did not violate New Jersey's pay-to-play laws that bar donations over $250 to political figures who oversee pension funds or to committees controlled by those politicians. [Asbury Park Press, 5/9/14]

The Record: Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate Denied Breaking New Jersey Pay-To-Play Laws. The Record reported Charles Baker's denial that his donation to the New Jersey Republican State Committee, and the subsequent investment of New Jersey pension funds into his hedge fund, broke New Jersey's pay-to-play laws:

A Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate says his donation to the New Jersey state GOP does not violate New Jersey's pay-to-play law, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Several months after he made his donation, New Jersey's pension fund awarded a contract to an investment firm that has a financial relationship with the candidate.

Charles Baker donated $10,000 to the New Jersey Republican State Committee in May 2011 and listed himself as a partner at General Catalyst Partners, a technology venture capital firm, according to state campaign finance disclosure forms. [The Record, 5/10/14, via Nexis]

Methodology

Media Matters used Nexis to search The Star-Ledger, The Record, Asbury Park Press, and the Times of Trenton for "Christie AND Pension" from March 18 to May 20 to identify all news article mentions of pay-to-play accusations surrounding pension investments. The terms "Elliot Associates," "Chatham Asset management," and "General Catalyst" were also searched from March 18 to May 20. The Star-Ledger, The Record, and the Asbury Park Press were chosen based on their circulation numbers according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Although not in the top circulating papers in the state, the Times of Trenton was chosen because the newspaper is based in New Jersey's capital city.

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