The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) is scheduled to hold a hearing next week to investigate allegations of ‘homophobia’ against its executive director, Jeff Brindle.
The charges were brought to light during an effort by some political figures, including Governor Phil Murphy, to remove Brindle from his position as head of the independent campaign finance watchdog.
The accusations against Brindle suggest that he made derogatory remarks about members of the LGBTQ+ community in an email that was obtained by Murphy’s political minions.
Murphy administration officials who were too cowardly to speak on the record about the allegation claimed that Brindle wrote to another ELEC staffer in response to an emailed communication about National Coming Out Day.
According to Murphy’s political minions, Brindle asked the staffer if she was coming out and lamented that government employees no longer recognize the birthdays of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln but could celebrate people revealing their sexual preferences.
The hearing will aim to uncover the truth behind these allegations and determine if there was any wrongdoing on Brindle’s part if and when he observed that birthdays of America’s greatest presidents are no longer recognized while controversial social movements are exalted.
ELEC Commissioner Stephen Holden, who announced next week’s public hearing during a regular commission meeting, called the allegations aimed at Brindle, “serious” and said there are also allegations of racism.
“If true, and if not true, it still requires a response from the commission because the commissioners have legislative responsibility and authority to address these kinds of concerns,” Holden said. “Most importantly, the commissioners believe in the due process requirements for all concerned.”
He said next week’s hearing would include testimony, an analysis of documents sent from Murphy’s office, and an examination of whether Brindle should face any discipline.
“That, I think, is consistent with our statutory responsibility. It’s consistent with our due process obligations. And it’s consistent with our ongoing efforts since we’ve been here to maintain the independence and bipartisanship and transparency of the things that are undertaken by the commission,” Holden added.
Brindle, who has worked for the Election Law Enforcement Commission since 1985 and been at its helm since 2009, claims in a lawsuit that Murphy and his minions are conspiring to seeking a way to get rid of him and undermine the integrity of the commission.
This is happening while state lawmakers are moving legislation that would give Murphy the power to single-handedly appoint an entirely new ELEC board, a move apparently intended to allow the administration to get rid of Brindle, while also negating the state’s anti-corruption statutes and increase the amount of legal bribe money politicians can accept.
The top 25 special interest spenders alone invested almost $285 million on lobbying between 2000 and 2022‚ according to a new analysis by ELEC.
The Senate approved the bill Monday, and it now awaits approval by the Assembly.
Good government groups — including state branches of the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union, among many others — have said the proposal would reduce transparency around campaign cash rather than improve it.
Good government advocates and employees of the commission itself have railed against a provision that would reduce the statute of limitations on campaign finance investigations from 10 years to two years.
Two Republicans, Assemblymen Brian Bergen and Antwan McClellan, alleged the change in statute of limitations is meant to shield three Democratic Party organizations that in January became a target of the commission, which lodged complaints against the Democratic State Committee, the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, and NJ Senate Democratic Majority over alleged campaign finance violations in 2017.
Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the bill’s prime sponsor, objected to the characterization of his proposal as .
“I sincerely believe in the need for reform, but the changes outlined in this bill will have consequences that damage the integrity of our elections and reduce the transparency of our political process,” said Sen. Nia Gill, the only Democrat to vote against the bill. “We will not solve the issue of money in politics by allowing more money in politics without transparency.”
State Sen. Holly Schepisi warned that ELEC could become a politicized weapon that the governor could wield against politicians he disagreed with.
“In this bill, we are enabling the administration to weaponize ELEC against any person who may speak out,” Schepisi said. “We’re taking away the ability of this legislature to ensure an impartial ELEC.”
The charges came about during an effort by some political figures to remove Brindle from his position, including Wall Street millionaire Governor Phil Murphy, who has been criticized for relying on dark money political operations.
The ELEC hearing takes place in the wake of new revelations that a dark money group, Stronger Fairer Forward, with ties to Murphy, received nearly $2 million in undisclosed donations.
Critics have raised concerns that the group’s activities could undermine transparency and accountability in New Jersey politics.
The controversy surrounding Stronger Fairer Forward has renewed calls for campaign finance reform in the state. Some advocates argue that the prevalence of dark money groups in New Jersey politics highlights the need for greater transparency and stricter disclosure requirements.
“New Jersey’s political system is rife with dark money groups and shadowy political operatives,” said Lisa McCormick, an advocate for government reform. “These groups operate outside the bounds of transparency and accountability, and they undermine the integrity of our democratic process.”
The hearing next week is not expected to shed light on the issue of dark money in New Jersey politics and its potential impact on campaign finance regulation.
McCormick said the allegations of homophobia against Brindle are much weaker than the accusations of misogyny against Murphy, but they would add another layer of complexity to an already contentious situation if commissioner factor the Governor’s hypocrisy into the proceedings.
However, the hearing is taking place amid political tensions in New Jersey, with Governor Murphy not just facing allegations of misogyny but also relying on dark money political operations to create a false political persona.
Murphy has been criticized by former aides for creating a hostile work environment for women during his gubernatorial campaign in 2017, he hired an alleged rapist to a six-figure government job and promoted several men who engaged in sexually inappropriate actions toward women in his administration, his campaign and even in a professional women’s soccer team that he owns.
Julie Roginsky, a former aide to Murphy, wrote in a 2020 op-ed for the USA Today that she was the target of sexist behavior by Brendan Gill, Murphy’s campaign manager.
Roginsky alleged that Gill subjected her to a “relentless campaign of misogyny,” which was known and condoned by Murphy.
An investigative report released by the U.S. Soccer Federation revealed that Murphy gave a glowing recommendation to a man named Christy Holly—hired in 2016 to be his team’s head coach only to step down mid-season in 2017—who eventually became head coach of Racing Louisville.
One Louisville player told investigators Holly sent her lewd and lascivious images and he admits that he asked her to send him her own sexually explicit photos.
The player said Holly sexually assaulted her in his home and groped her elsewhere.
Murphy could have prevented what happened after Sky Blue’s owners fired Holly.
A witness who talked to investigators said Sky Blue’s general manager said Holly’s departure was necessary “after repeated and ongoing complaints by players regarding Holly’s verbal and emotional abuse,” the report says. Holly’s relationship with the team’s captain, also, had become “so toxic and disruptive that he had ‘lost the locker room,’” the witness said, according to the report (he and the former team captain are now married).
The report also says Sky Blue players were “asked to keep the matter of Holly’s departure confidential.”
These allegations have raised questions about Murphy’s commitment to progressive values and the empowerment of women in politics. Some political observers have criticized Murphy for his apparent hypocrisy, with calls for him to address the allegations against him and his staff.
“When Julie Roginsky went public with accounts of toxic behavior by men working for the Murphy campaign in 2017, Murphy said he knew nothing. When Katie Brennan alleged a Murphy campaign staffer sexually assaulted her, Brennan said her pleas for help from Murphy went unanswered. Then, even after a legislative committee said Murphy’s general counsel, Matt Platkin, was ‘sloppy’ in his handling of the matter, Murphy elevated Platkin to attorney general, wrote Terrence T. McDonald, a New Jersey journalist who called Murphy’s evasiveness, “a look we’ve seen before.”
The hearing next week will be closely watched by political observers in New Jersey, as it could have significant implications for campaign finance regulation and the fight against dark money in the state.
It is unclear how the accusations of misogyny against Murphy will factor into the proceedings, but they are sure to add another layer of complexity to an already contentious situation.
In 1973‚ the New Jersey Legislature enacted a pioneering and sweeping campaign finance law‚ which also established ELEC as a bipartisan independent agency tasked with promoting transparency and accountability in the financing of our state and local elections.
Brindle did not respond to calls for comment about this story. Murphy administration officials were too cowardly to speak on the record, and instead insisted on anonymity.