Confirmed: Christie supporter given equity stake in company connected to NJ pension cash

By David Sirota , written on May 16, 2014

From The News Desk

All this week, Pando has been reporting on the connections between Chris Christie supporter Charles Baker, venture firm General Catalyst and millions of dollars of New Jersey pension money. After Baker made a sizable donation to Christie's state party, New Jersey decided to hand millions of dollars of public pension money to General Catalyst, for whom Baker works as a partner. The story, which involves state and federal pay-to-play rules, is made all the more explosive by the fact that Baker is currently a Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts.

The previous twist in the tale was Pando's revelation that Baker serves on the board of General Catalyst backed Mulberry Health and Oscar Insurance -- two firms which directly benefit from the Christie administration's decision to invest New Jersey public pension resources in General Catalyst.

And it gets worse: Pando has now confirmed that Baker also has a personal ownership stake in Oscar Insurance.

According to a source close to Oscar, Baker “received compensation in the form of equity” in the company. The source added that Baker “hasn’t personally invested in Oscar” and owns “less than one percent of the company.” Still, with the company's valuation reportedly close to $1bn, a 1% stake could still be worth as much as ten million dollars.

Since Pando already confirmed Baker is on the board of the firm, it is not completely surprising to learn that Baker received equity. After all, corporate board members are often compensated this way. However, the revelation is newsworthy because it means that Baker had a personal financial stake in a firm that received New Jersey pension money only months after he made a $10,000 campaign contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

The sequence of the campaign contribution going into the New Jersey GOP and then a public pension contract coming out of the Christie administration occurred despite federal and state pay-to-play laws aiming to prohibit campaign contributions from firms managing pension money. The Baker contribution and subsequent pension contract from Baker’s ally, Christie, has prompted the Massachusetts Attorney General and a senior New Jersey state lawmaker to request a federal investigation.

Baker’s relationship with General Catalyst and the firms it invests in could soon become more clear on June 3rd, which is the deadline for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates to file financial disclosure forms.

Pando requested comment about this story from the Baker for Governor campaign. The campaign did not respond to the request.