State Republicans are questioning if the Congressional maps approved late last year were unduly influenced by the political views by the head of an independent advisory project.
State Senate Minority Leader Steven Oroho (R-24) sent a letter to the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation (SCI) April 29 that in part calls for an investigation into claims of misconduct by Sam Wang, head of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. The organization was an advisor to the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission and paid by the state to help determine the legislative map after the 2020 Census.
“If Wang cheated to support his personal interest of helping Democrats, his actions could impact the partisan composition of New Jersey’s delegation to the United States House of Representatives and even control of Congress itself. This is extremely alarming,” wrote Oroho to the SCI.
The issue comes after Princeton University launched an internal investigation of Wang due to members of his staff alleged that he was manipulating data to match his personal agenda, and for mistreating people who worked for him. Complaints were reportedly filed before and during the time Wang was serving as the advisor to the independent congressional redistricting tiebreaker.
A university spokesman, Michael E. Hotchkiss, said in a statement on the same day Oroho made his request that based on an initial review conducted after the Congressional Redistricting Commission completed its work, “the University knows of no credible allegations of data manipulation pertaining to the work product delivered to the commission.”
In terms of the political implications in the Garden State, Wang was accused of manipulating data to achieve the outcome he wanted while working on the New Jersey congressional map.
“He’d fudge the numbers to get his way,” one individual alleged to the New Jersey Globe, who first reported the story. “He had an agenda. He was good at hiding it when he had to, but it was clear Sam wanted Democrats to win and he was willing to cheat to make that happen.”
The map controversial was adopted after the tie breaking vote from former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., who said he choose the Democratic map over the Republicans because “simply because the last redistricting map was drawn by the Republicans.” Asked to explain his decision further, Wallace would cite Wang’s “evaluation of partisan fairness of the maps.”
Use of Taxpayer Dollars
The Democratic map was widely seen as hurting Rep. Tom Malinowski re-election chances in the 7th Congressional District while buttressing the North Jersey 5th and 11th Congressional Districts represented by Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill. A Republican map would have made all three North Jersey races competitive.
Oroho in his letter wrote that if the allegations are true, the commission and taxpayers did not receive the benefit of the “honest services” for which Wang was paid for, an amount reportedly totaling $15,375.
“The alleged misconduct may have far-reaching consequences if Judge Wallace made critical decisions based on faulty or misleading data, including his ultimate decision to adopt the map proposed by Democrats instead of the map proposed by Republicans,” wrote the Sussex County lawmaker.
Doug Steinhardt, the Republican chairman of the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission, wants the panel to reconvene as the allegations have “reopened old wounds and shed disturbing new light” on the outcome.
“According to the New Jersey Globe article, Sam Wang defrauded 9 million New Jersey residents when he rigged the redistricting process and took taxpayer money while doing it,” said Doug Steinhardt, a former New Jersey GOP State Chairman. “Cheating is cheating and fraud is fraud and Sam Wang should not be able to hide behind the Princeton Gerrymandering Project’s nonprofit status or the ivory towers of a liberal Ivy League institution.”
Steinhardt has directed his party’s general counsel to send document retention notices to people involved in New Jersey’s congressional redistricting process.
Call for Bipartisanship
“It seems appropriate that we convene a meeting of the Commission as a whole to discuss Mr. Wang and the PGP’s misconduct and its implications on the process and the unethically and immorally derived current, Congressional Redistricting map,” he wrote.
Oroho urged Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats to join in a bipartisan effort to ensure that the allegations of wrongdoing are investigated properly.
“New Jersey Democrats have an opportunity to demonstrate they are willing to stand up to efforts to subvert our nation’s democratic process, including when the alleged wrongdoing benefits them politically,” added Oroho. “Governor Murphy has the authority to order the SCI to conduct the investigation that I just requested. If he truly believes that partisanship should be put aside to protect our democratic institutions and processes, he should order an investigation immediately.”