New Jersey governor used public expense account to spend $12,000 at stadium events News
U.S. Consulate General Munich, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
New Jersey governor used public expense account to spend $12,000 at stadium events

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy used his public, taxpayer-funded expense account to spend almost $12,000 at events at MetLife Stadium in northern New Jersey, including a Taylor Swift concert, according to records reviewed by POLITICO this week. The expenses started accumulating when Murphy took office in 2018, but have not grown since 2019.

POLITICO obtained the receipts and invoices from Murphy’s office using New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, which allows public access to government records. The 910 pages of records showed Murphy spent $11,847 on various stadium events, including: $936 at a 2018 Taylor Swift concert, $2,095 at a 2018 USA v. Brazil soccer game, $2,068 at a 2018 NFL game, $1,413 at a 2019 concert event, $2,856 at 2019 USA v. Mexico soccer game and $2,479 at a 2019 NFL game.

New Jersey’s governor has access to a $95,000 annual expense account, but the account can not be used for personal purposes. Jennifer Sciortino, a spokesperson for Murphy’s office, said they expected the state Democratic Party to cover these expenses over time, but that “Once it was clear that there were outstanding bills that had not been paid, the state stepped up to meet this responsibility.” A representative from the New Jersey Democratic Party, Phil Swibinski, said they were not aware of the invoices and plans for reimbursement, as there is new party leadership. “We are looking into the matter in order to determine whether any additional action is necessary at this time,” Swibinski added.

New Jersey has a reputation for corrupt politics. Derek Arnold, a senior instructor at Villanova University who researches political scandals, said that voters see corruption charges as part of the job and powerbrokers don’t shy away from accusations. “We almost wear [scandal] as a badge of honor,” Arnold said. Murphy’s Republican predecessor, Chris Christie, came under scrutiny for similar reasons during his term, having spent more than $80,000 at sports stadiums, in addition to a bridge closure scandal dubbed “Bridgegate” that received national attention.

POLITICO’s report on Murphy’s spending comes soon after one of New Jersey’s Senators, Bob Menendez, was indicted for bribery and acting as an illegal agent of Egypt. Menendez denies these charges and has pled not guilty. Menendez was previously charged with various corruption offenses in 2015 for allegedly accepting over $600,000 in bribes from a friend, ophthalmologist Salomon Milligan. However, a jury deadlocked on the charges in November 2017, resulting in a mistral. A federal judge then acquitted Menendez on 7 out of 18 charges facing him in January 2018, and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped the remaining charges days later.

A number of Senators have called for Menendez to resign following the most recent charges, including New Jersey’s other Democratic Senator, Cory Booker. He has already received one primary challenger for next year’s election, and Tammy Murphy, Governor Murphy’s wife, has started making preparations for her own challenge.