New Jersey passes campaign finance overhaul into law

Fox News Flash top headlines for March 30

New Jersey The Democratic-led legislature passed an overhaul of the state’s campaign finance laws on Thursday, sending the measure to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.

The measure, called the Election Transparency Act — a name that opponents say falls short of the mark — is making a raft of changes, including increasing spending and contribution limits, reforming pay-to-play laws, and shortening the period for which a state election oversight commission can investigate. Campaign financing violations.

The bill’s sponsors claim the changes are overdue and badly needed, and it also contains real transparency provisions, such as requiring that groups like the Super Political Action Committees and other contributing organizations report their contributions to the government oversight body and reducing the threshold at which reporting is necessary from $10,000 to $7,500.

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Among the changes the proposed bill would make are increasing spending limits in the gubernatorial primary to $7.3 million from $2.2 million, and to $15.6 million from $5 million in the general election, as well as increasing the cap on individual contributions for candidates and parties from $2,600 to $5,200. . It also retroactively shortens the statute of limitations for the state’s campaign finance oversight — the Election Law Enforcement Committee — to investigate violations from 10 years to two years, temporarily allows the governor to make appointments to the committee without Senate approval and ends individual city payroll. Play rules.

The bill would also remove the current ban on general contractors donating to state and party committees and allow state and party committees to maintain a “housekeeping” account to pay for non-political expenses.

On the assembly floor On Thursday, Democratic Majority Leader Lewis Greenwald and Republican Assemblywoman Brian Bergen clashed on the floor over the measure.

Bergen, an opponent of the legislation, questioned why this measure would increase contribution caps. Greenwald, the sponsor of the bill, replied that the goal of the legislation was to require more disclosure, because so-called dark money groups do not disclose their donors.

“That’s not the point of the bill,” Bergen said, “but it’s part of the bill.” “It allows people to buy influence.”

Greenwald responded that the legislation would investigate corruption because it requires disclosure.

The New Jersey legislature on Thursday passed a comprehensive campaign finance reform bill.

The New Jersey legislature on Thursday passed a comprehensive campaign finance reform bill. (AP Photo/Mike Catalini)

“It’s not the amount of money you can contribute that leads to corruption,” Greenwald said.

Senate President Nicholas Scutari was the only member to speak in favor of the bill last week when the measure passed in that chamber, with bipartisan votes for and against.

The Democrat said the bill would create a much better system than what currently exists. He cited a campaign finance violation since 2016 that recently resulted in a five-figure fine, as the reason for the retroactive cancellation of the 10-year statute of limitations.

“Where is the deterrence in that fine? Why should we let them chase people after they are out of office?” Scutari said. “How would you like to get a traffic ticket two years after you passed (the red light)?”

Opponents of the bill said it did not live up to its name.

Democratic state Senator Nia Gill said the measure expands the influence of money in politics. Republican Senator Anthony Bocco said the measure hinders the commission’s ability to prosecute campaign finance violations.

“It simply became a bad bill with a great name,” Boko said.

Among the bill’s worst loopholes, according to critics, is an expansion of pay-to-play laws — rules meant to limit companies with public contracts that can contribute to political campaigns.

The bill would allow recipients of state government contracts to contribute to gubernatorial candidates if they are awarded through a “fair and open process.” The bill states that the public body awarding the contract determines what amounts to “fairness and openness.”

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“New Jerseyans will be left asking whether state government futures will be awarded to the least qualified bidders, or to the next governor’s biggest donors,” said Philip Hensley, democracy policy analyst for the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

The bill was first introduced last summer, but it didn’t start moving through the legislature until earlier this year. This coincides with a controversy involving the Executive Director of the Oversight Committee and Murphy. Director Jeffrey Prindel recently filed a lawsuit alleging that Murphy’s staff called him for a meeting last November and asked him to quit. They referred to “anti-gay” emails they said Brindel sent. He denied that the emails showed bias and said he had been coerced into resigning.

An earlier draft of the legislation would have allowed Murphy to unilaterally fire Brindle, but the latest version posted on the legislature’s website would temporarily allow Murphy to name the four commission commissioners, who oversee the executive director.

Murphy spokesperson He declined to comment.

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If approved, the potential bill’s campaign contribution and spending limits wouldn’t make New Jersey much of an outsider compared to other states. Some have unlimited levels, while others have much lower limits compared to the highly anticipated changes in NJ.

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