A Koch brothers foundation comes to Monmouth County by opening an office and likely learning whether the conservative organization that propelled tea party candidates into office has the clout to compete with the new Party of Trump. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron is with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s New Jersey State Director Erica Jedynak.
Aron: Erica, you’re opening up a Monmouth County headquarters tonight. What does that mean for your organization?
Jedynak: Yes, so Americans for Prosperity is thrilled to be in Monmouth County. It’s a new community center where we will be empowering activists through local trainings, weekly phone banks and events, and empowering more people to be involved in the public policy process.
Aron: Where is your main office at the moment?
Jedynak: It’s in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Aron: Morris County — Republican country. And this is Republican Country. There’s no coincidence with that probably.
Jedynak: No, we’re here where the base of activists are, and we’re really thrilled to be growing here in New Jersey.
Aron: What’s the mission of Americans for Prosperity?
Jedynak: We support a free and open society at the local, state and federal level and we want more economic freedom for everyone.
Aron: Are there affiliates of Americans for Prosperity in every state?
Jedynak: We’re in 35 different states right now. We have 137,000 activists right here in New Jersey, and we’re all about empowering communities and so, thrilled to be opening the operation with our grass roots director here, Tony Howley, who’s been a lifelong Monmouth County resident.
Aron: Are you funded totally by the Koch brothers?
Jedynak: We actually have over 100,000 donors across the country. The Kochs have been part of the network. We’re very proud to be associated with them, but we have activists donors of all levels.
Aron: Where do the Koch brothers stand in relation to Donald Trump now? I think I’ve read about a little bit of friction.
Jedynak: Yes, the whole network, as well as the Koch brothers, have been supportive of things like tax reform at the federal level with President Trump, and most recently calling him out for the tariffs policy. Tariffs are particularly harmful for New Jersey’s manufacturing industry, as well as some of the agricultural community. We work on policy, so we’re going to call people out and support them when they do the right thing, too.
Aron: Would Trump call the Koch brothers enemies of his. Not allies I take it. How would you characterize how Trump sees the Koch brothers?
Jedynak: I could not tell you what Trump thinks. I can tell you that we have a lot of activists who support what Trump’s doing and also find some things about what he’s doing harmful. Our mission, we always say our motto, is to work with anyone to do good and no one to do harm.
Aron: What role are you playing in the midterm elections here in New Jersey?
Jedynak: We are focused on policy, not politics. So one thing is we’re really focused on the local communities here, whether that is supporting home bakers, supporting, you may have seen, occupational licensing reform at the State House supporting the hair braiding community, so we are very activist-based. We’re not focused on the politics.
Aron: So some of the Republicans in close races in New Jersey this fall, like Bob Hugin running for the Senate, Tom MacArthur, Leonard Lance, Jay Webber — you’re not doing anything to help these conservatives?
Jedynak: We are not a function of the Republican Party. We’re very much about the policy, so we’re going to work with anyone here in the state of New Jersey to save our state, make it a more affordable place. But no, not a function of the Republican Party.
Aron: How’s the state doing under Murphy?
Jedynak: I would rate Gov. Murphy as an “F” right now. Unfortunately, he’s raised taxes, just yesterday he CVed [conditionally vetoed] the New Jersey hair braiding bill. You know, occupational licensing reform was in the transition reports as a priority and instead he’s erecting more barriers for people trying to be able to go to work in the state.