Company Behind Hoboken Project Has Long Trail Of Jersey Campaign Cash

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question after signing legislation changing how the state awards tax breaks to businesses and developers in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. The bill consolidates ... New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question after signing legislation changing how the state awards tax breaks to businesses and developers in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. The bill consolidates New Jersey's five tax incentive programs into two, one to give grants for creating jobs, the other to keep jobs from leaving the state. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) MORE LESS
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Rockefeller Group, the company at the center of explosive allegations made by the mayor of Hoboken, N.J. over the weekend, has an extensive history of spreading campaign cash around New Jersey.

Records show the company and its executives have doled out more than $70,000 to Jersey candidates and committees from both parties, including $2,500 to Gov. Chris Christie.

Rockefeller Group became a focus of attention Saturday when Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer alleged that Christie aides had threatened to withhold hurricane relief money unless she approved a development project that involves the company. Rockefeller owns the land where the project was to be built and was also represented by a law firm founded by a close Christie ally.

In an email to TPM Monday, Dwayne Doherty, a spokesman for Rockefeller Group, said the company allows its employees to make “personal donations.”

“The Rockefeller Group has a long-standing company policy that prohibits political contributions on behalf of the company. Employees may make political contributions personally,” Doherty wrote.

But even though Doherty initially said Rockefeller Group does not make campaign contributions as a company, campaign finance records show the company has been making political donations for more than two decades. From 1989 until 2011, records show Rockefeller Group has made 21 campaign contributions in New Jersey totaling $77,500.

Of Rockefeller’s 21 donations, five went to Democrats and 16 to Republicans. Rockefeller gave $37,000 to Democratic organizations from 2001 until 2004, including $30,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee and $7,000 to the Middlesex County Democratic Organization.

Rockefeller gave a total of $40,500 to Republican candidates and organizations from 1989 until 2011. The New Jersey Republican State Committee received two donations totaling $25,000 from Rockefeller Group in 1999 and 2000. Rockefeller Group gave $1,500 to an Assembly Republican committee in 2004. The other 13 Rockefeller Group donations to Republicans went to individual candidates. Christie did not receive any direct donations from the company.

After being shown the list of Rockefeller donations on the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission website, Doherty said the company’s policy actually allows for campaign contributions to be made on its behalf in “special circumstances.” He said he would be unable to determine why the donations were made in New Jersey until Tuesday.

“Based on the information you provided I was able to confirm that our corporate policy allows for corporate political contributions in special circumstances with prior authorization, but I would need to verify the list you shared before we can confirm what exactly they represented and whether they were in fact authorized,” Doherty wrote in an email.

In addition to the donations made by the company, records show individual Rockefeller Group employees have made donations in New Jersey. Christie has received $2,500 in campaign contributions from two Rockefeller Group executives since his first gubernatorial campaign in 2009.

Campaign finance records show Rockefeller Group Executive Vice President Leslie Smith, who leads the company’s development efforts in New Jersey, has given $2,000 to Christie since 2009. Smith donated $1,000 to Christie’s re-election campaign in April, $500 to Christie’s campaign in 2009, and another $500 to Christie’s first inaugural in 2010.

In addition to his contributions to Christie, the records show Smith also gave to other New Jersey Republicans. Smith gave $1,000 to state Sen. Tony Bucco (R) in 2004. That same year, Smith gave $250 to unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate John Murphy. Along with his donations to Republicans, Smith gave $300 to the Morris County Democratic Committee in 2005.

Rockefeller Group Vice President Clark Machemer, who is also a member of the company’s New Jersey team, made a single donation. According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission’s records, Machemer gave $500 to Christie last May. Another Rockefeller group employee, William Mahoney gave $500 to the failed re-election bid of former Gov. Jim Florio (D) in 1993.

Doherty described these contributions as “personal donations.”

“William Maloney, may have been an employee in the past who no longer works for the company. I can’t confirm more than that about him on short notice. The other two individuals are current employees of The Rockefeller Group, and their donations are personal donations,” Doherty wrote.

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