From Finance to Politics: A Former Wall Streeter Supports Progressive Policy

Goldman Sachs is in the news again as executives from the firm are tapped to staff up a new Trump administration. But the philanthrosphere is another arena where this Wall Street firm has a large footprint, with many of its alums engaged in active giving.

Last year, I did a deep dive into some of the biggest philanthropists to emerge from Goldman Sachs. Several of the individuals I profiled had since moved around. Former GS Partner Robert Kaplan, for instance, recently assumed the role of president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. On the philanthropic end, Kaplan is heavily involved with Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK),  a leadership development learning organization.


Also recall Jon Corzine, a Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO during the 1990s, who was senator and governor of New Jersey in the aughts. We've kept a close eye on Corzine to see if and when he would hit the giving big leagues. (Corzine's philanthropy via his foundation has been modest so far.)

Speaking of Goldman execs-turned-Garden State governors, 59-year-old Philip D. Murphy hopes to follow in his former boss' footsteps. Raised in a working-class Irish Catholic family in the Boston area, Murphy attended Harvard and the Wharton School, graduating in 1983. Murphy worked for over 20 years at Goldman Sachs, ending his full-time career on the firm’s management committee in 2003. He spent much of the 1990s abroad for Goldman, working in places like Frankfurt and Hong Kong. 

Post-Goldman, Murphy has pivoted to political and civic life, including serving as national finance chair for the DNC and U.S. ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. His wife Tammy and kids lived in Germany for four years. Now, back in his state of New Jersey, Murphy is running for governor as a Democrat. 

On the charitable front, Murphy and Tammy move their philanthropy through the Murphy Family Foundation, whose giving has steadily risen of late, giving around $1.6 million in the 2015 fiscal year. Murphy and Tammy founded 2nd Floor, a confidential and anonymous helpline for New Jersey’s youth and young adults that’s available around the clock 365 days a year.

The couple also founded New Start New Jersey, a "think and do" organization, chaired by Tammy, whose mission is to strengthen New Jersey’s middle class. It's not a stretch to see this policy shop as an ideas generator for Murphy's gubernatorial bid. We've certainly seen that before: philanthropists investing in policy work that advances their political agendas. Overall, Murphy's recent career trajectory is a textbook example of how wealth can be used to launch and further a career in public service. Money earned at Goldman enabled Murphy to become a top Democratic donor, with a top ambassadorship as an award. In turn, that post established him as a credible candidate for New Jersey governor — an ambition he and his wife have advanced through well-targeted philanthropic investments in public policy.

Philip Murphy's rise is another reminder that the rich have opportunities to be heard in the public square that aren't available to people of more humble means.

Clearly, though, this is a couple with a strong convictions. Support of policy, particularly progressive policy, is a key feature of the Murphy Family Foundation's recent grantmaking. Murphy sits on the board of directors of the NAACP, which the family supports via their foundation. Other grantees include the Center for American Progress, the American Council on Germany, Alliance for Climate Protection, the National Diplomacy Center Foundation, New Jersey Policy Perspective, the Brookings Institute, and the National Democratic Institute. The Murphys seem to focus both on Garden City and national organizations in this philanthropy.

Apart from policy, the family also supports their schools and other educational organizations, as well as hospitals and more. For a full scope of this funder's work, read our profile of Phil Murphy linked below. 

RelatedPhilip D. Murphy