Assembly Panel Advances Gusciora & Stender Bill to Shed Light on Campaign Spending by Third-Party Organizations

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora and Linda Stender sponsored to shed light on the independent expenditures that flow from committees or organizations that are not affiliated or coordinated with a candidate was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-3863) would require public disclosure of the contributions received and the expenditures made by committees or organizations not affiliated or coordinated with a candidate, the candidates committee or joint candidates committee, or both, or a committee organized to support or oppose a public question.
“This money is creeping into politics in New Jersey, and we’ve got to shed light on it for the public’s benefit” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “I think it’s fair that it be disclosed. We should have transparency in all donations that ultimately serve to persuade voters on a candidate.”
“It’s long past time to make transparent these shadowy types of organizations that spend boatloads of money on New Jersey candidates and issues without accountability,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “Transparency is always the best disinfectant. If these groups want to be active in New Jersey, then they should face public disclosure rules.”
Under the bill, such an organization is referred to as an independent expenditure-only committee and defined as an organization organized under section 527 of the federal Internal Revenue Code or under subsection c. of section 501 of the federal Internal Revenue Code, or any organization organized under federal law that the Election Law Enforcement Commission determines is essentially similar to such organizations and does not fall within the definition of any other organization subject to the provisions of current law.
The bill requires an independent expenditure-only committee to:
· Register with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) if it makes an independent expenditure of at least $1,200 in the aggregate or receives a contribution of $2,500 or more in the aggregate during a calendar year;
· Make a cumulative report on a quarterly basis, on a form prescribed by ELEC, of all contributions in the form of moneys, loans, paid personal services, or other thing of value made to it, and of all independent expenditures made, incurred, or authorized by it during the period ending 48 hours preceding the date of the report and beginning on the date on which the first of those contributions was received or the first of those expenditures was made, whichever occurred first;
· Appoint a single treasurer who is to be responsible for certifying the correctness of each report filed with ELEC and maintaining all records of contributions and independent expenditures for a period of not less than four years;
· File a cumulative report on the: a) 29th day preceding the election for which contributions were received and independent expenditures were made by the committee; b) 11th day preceding the election; and c) 20th day following the election for which contributions were received and independent expenditures were made by the committee;
· Provide an itemized accounting of all receipts relative to any contribution of $2,500 or more received, or independent expenditure of at least $1,200 made by an independent expenditure-only committee, which includes the name and mailing address of each contributor contributing to such committee and the amount contributed by each;
· File notice with ELEC within 48 hours of a contribution of $2,500 or more received between the 13th day before an election and the date of the election, and any independent expenditure made during that period;
· Provide that no person serving as the chairman of a political party committee or a legislative leadership committee may serve as the chairperson of an independent expenditure-only committee, or as its treasurer, or be involved in the management, control or formation of an independent expenditure-only committee;
· Require each independent expenditure-only committee to establish an account that is separate and segregated from any other bank account established by the committee and use that account whenever it makes independent expenditures or receives contributions to promote the election or defeat of any candidate for elective public office or the passage or defeat of any public question voted on by the voters of this state;
· Provide that if any communication is made by an independent expenditure-only committee after January 1 of the calendar year of a primary, general, nonpartisan municipal, local or regional school board or fire district election to nominate or elect candidates for election or re-election to those offices, and in the case of a run-off or special election during the period beginning on the date on which the announcement with respect to such election is made and ending on the date of the election, or with regard to a public question, the communication must be reported to ELEC pursuant to the current law regarding election communications; and
· Provide that any communication from an independent expenditure-only committee, when taken as a whole, expressly advocates the nomination, election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or expressly advocates supporting or opposing a public question, or is the functional equivalent of express advocacy, must contain a clear statement that the expenditure was made without the cooperation, knowledge, or prior consent of, or without coordination or consultation with, or without the request, suggestion or behest of, a candidate or any person or committee acting on behalf of a candidate, or that the expenditure was made to support or oppose the passage of a public question without the cooperation, knowledge, or prior consent of, or without coordination or consultation with, or without the request, suggestion or behest of any person or committee supporting or opposing a public question.
The bill was released by the Assembly State Government Committee chaired by Stender.