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Eustace & Benson Bill to Increase Corporate Political Transparency in New Jersey Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace and Daniel R. Benson sponsored to increase the transparency of corporate political activity – especially from corporations receiving taxpayer-funded assistance – was approved Monday by the Assembly.
The bill would require corporations applying for or receiving an economic development subsidy from a state agency of $25,000 or more to provide to that agency a list of every expenditure greater than $10,000 or other thing of value greater than $10,000 made by the corporation or its parent to support or oppose the candidacy of a person or a public question in this state.
“Increased transparency when it comes to political activity has never been more important, considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision rejecting efforts to restrict campaign spending by corporations,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “If a corporation is receiving help from hard-working New Jersey taxpayers, then the taxpayers deserve to know whether that corporation is involving itself in the political process and who it supports. Corporations currently have a right to involve themselves in politics, but they should not be allowed to do so secretly.”
The sponsors noted that in his dissent to the 2003 ruling, Justice Stevens called the decision “a radical change in the law” and stated that “In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant . . . [Corporations] cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters.”
“Let’s shine the light as much as possible on corporate political activity,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This is a reasonable move that does not infringe free speech rights. Rather, it strengthens the public’s right to know how their money is being spent, and that’s always a good thing.”
The list shall include all such contributions made within the two calendar years immediately preceding the corporation’s application for the subsidy.
The bill also requires that a recipient corporation annually provide a list of such contributions made during each year to the state agency, beginning with the end of the first full state fiscal year after the date of the development subsidy.
The state treasurer is required to provide the annual list as part of the Unified Economic Development Budget Report required pursuant to current law.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate.