Candidate questions rival’s casino connection

Candidate James Johnson’s staff links are raising questions from Democratic rival Lisa McCormick

Democrat Lisa McCormick questioned the selection of a top advisor for one of her rivals for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, suggesting that James Johnson’s senior political strategist may have been planted in that assignment to help a Massachusetts billionaire get a casino that voters rejected last year.

Prior to starting Northwind Strategies, one of the consultants on Johnson’s campaign, Doug Rubin was a partner at Fireman Capital Partners, a private equity investment firm whose principal, Paul Fireman, gave one million dollars to Republican Gov. Chris Christie to win support for a casino in northern New Jersey.

McCormick posted a Twitter message that said, “Jim Johnson’s senior strategist was partner of Paul Fireman, who gave @GovChristie $1 million to flip flop on north NJ casinos.”

Fireman, who has been lobbying elected officials across the state to amend the State Constitution allowing casinos outside Atlantic City, gave $1 million to Gov. Chris Christie, who then reversed his position on casinos in North Jersey.

On June 25, 2015, Paul Fireman, through his Winecup-Gamble Ranch in Nevada gave $1 million to a super PAC that supported Christie’s failed 2016 presidential bid. That donation was made less than a month after Christie told NJ101.5 on May 27, 2015, that he decided to flip-flop and would support casino expansion.

“This casino connection deserves an explanation. Boston area influence is strongly evident in Johnson’s campaign team as it is in that of Wall Street billionaire Phil Murphy,” said McCormick, who said while she has met most other Democratic candidates, Johnson has not responded to invitations for a personal discussion so she decided to raise these questions in public.

McCormick said that the $1 million given to Christie by Fireman will be thoroughly investigated by law enforcement officials for criminal evidence if she is elected governor.


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