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Christie's Sandy Relief Fund: Delayed, Politically-Connected, and Non-Transparent

A year after its inception, Christie's corporately-supported $38 million Sandy relief fund has filed no financial reports and offered zero reporting on its fundraising take, its grant awards and its operating expenses.

This Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund (HSNFRF) was started by Governor Christie, whose name early on successfully garnered large donations from politically connected donors, including Hess and AT&T. Direction of the fund, rather than being turned over to a non-profit professional, was entrusted to his wife Mary Pat Christie, as Board Chair. She appointed as her first board member Gov. Christie's political confidante Bill Palatucci. Sloppiness was apparent from the beginning as the fund claimed it was a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization before it had even applied.

HSNJRF was slow in hiring staff. It has been even slower in dispersing funds. New Jerseyans have been desperately in need of relief assistance. However, as of July 8, according to a Star-Ledger interview with Mrs. Christie, HSNJRF had issued awards of only $11 million of its then total funds of $38 million.
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As of Sunday, a year after its inception, HSNJRF has filed no financial reports with either the NJ Charitable Division (file registration #: CH3558500) nor the IRS (E.I.N. #: 36-4745729). There is zero reporting on its fundraising take, its grant awards, and its operating expenditures. While, the State, for example,  extended the financial reporting date of Sandy-related groups to February, 2014, there is nothing stopping HSNJRF from periodically issuing such data. Indeed, other groups have done so. HSNJRF has relentlessly been non-transparent about the $38 million Mrs. Christie says it raised. Only in rare news interviews has she casually mentioned the amount in the fund.

Then on October 22 in a CBS interview she said they had raised $38 million. Surprisingly this is the exact same figure she quoted back in the July interview above, which suggests no money was raised since then, or she not up to date on receipts, or there is some confusion. In the interview she indicates she continues to solicit additional funds. She further says, "$25 million has been allocated to non-profit organizations." The word "allocated"  is not the same as disbursed (or actually paying out the amount) so it's hard to know how much has been disbursed. The issue is made more confusing because her website today indicates that as of September 18, there has only been "Total Grant Awards of  $16,295,600." Furthermore, HSNJRF sends its funds to agencies which in turn disburses monies to individuals and groups. What has actually been received by individuals a year after Sandy is anyone's guess.  

HSNJRF's website stated back in July and still today: "Final grant award announcements are expected on Thursday, October 31st." These announcements are conveniently scheduled to be issued just before the November 5 General Election, which only provides further help to the Governor. Unfortunately, help desperately needed by NJ residents has been slow in coming, politically connected, and remarkably devoid of transparency. We probably will not learn about the inner financial details of HSNJRF until after February at which time the election will be over. Good for him, not so good for Sandy victims nor the general public concerned about management of non-profits.  

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