New Jersey

Environmental Group Throws Money Behind Democratic Front-Runner in New Jersey Governor's Race

Environmental group to spend $130K in gubernatorial race

An environmental group in New Jersey said Wednesday that it will spend $130,000 to help the wealthy Democratic front-runner in the race for governor, who has come under attack for his investments in pipeline companies.

The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund told the Associated Press that it's pouring the cash into digital and mail campaigns to back Phil Murphy. The league endorsed Murphy in February.

The advertising spending comes in response to attacks from Murphy's Democratic rivals in the June 6 primary. Assemblyman John Wisniewski assailed Murphy over his financial holdings of energy companies that own or operate pipelines. Wisniewski called it a "devil's resume" of companies dedicated to exploiting natural resources.

Murphy's personal financial disclosure forms filed with state officials show he has holdings in PSEG and Spectra, which are stakeholders in the proposed natural gas PennEast pipeline. Murphy has come out against the pipeline.

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Murphy said during the second and final debate that there wasn't a good answer to explain the assets but that he would put his holdings into a blind trust. Murphy also has adopted a league-backed pledge to get New Jersey to use 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

Drew Tompkins, a spokesman for the league's victory fund, said the group believes Murphy will stand up to proposed White House cuts to environmental protection.

"It's critical that New Jersey elects a leader who will protect our state's water, open spaces and air from the disastrous policies of the Trump administration," Tompkins said.

In addition to Wisniewski, Murphy faces four other Democrats in the primary. They are Bill Brennan, Jim Johnson, Ray Lesniak and Mark Zinna.

Murphy, 59, earned a fortune after a career as an executive at Goldman Sachs, including stints in its Germany and Asia offices. He served as ambassador to Germany under former President Barack Obama.

He also has loaned his campaign $15 million and spent about six times more than his Democratic rivals combined, according to Election Law Enforcement Commission documents.

Outside spending has not been a huge factor in the race, which has been dominated by Murphy thanks to his deep pockets and many labor and political endorsements. State records show that so-called independent groups in the governor's race have spent about $8 million so far this year, with much of that money coming from group's affiliated with Murphy.

Other big spending came from two Democrats who contemplated campaigns but ultimately didn't run.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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