The General Assembly on Thursday unanimously granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji to improve transparency by requiring lobbyists to disclose the money they receive from state and local government entities to lobby any government agency.
The sponsors noted that a 2009 Comptroller report found that state government entities spent close to $4 million on lobbying firms to lobby state government.
“We have very detailed lobbying disclosure requirements, but when it comes to this relatively newer and growing practice of government entities hiring lobbyists to further their agendas with other government agencies, we need to improve transparency,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Taxpayers deserve to know where and how their money is being spent.”
The bill (A-4423) would amend the “Legislative and Governmental Process Activities Disclosure Act” to require a governmental affairs agent to disclose the dollar amount received from a state or local government entity when employed or retained by that entity for the purpose of influencing governmental processes.
“This is about transparency and accountability,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Taxpayers have every right to know how their dollars are being used and if it’s in their best interest. This will bolster our already substantial lobbying disclosure requirements.”
The bill requires the dollar amount received by the governmental affairs agent from the state or local government entity to be reported in the notice of representation form already required by law to be filed by governmental affairs agents with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
“This is about transparency, ethics and protecting the taxpayers’ bottom line,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent and, as we often say, sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
Additionally, the bill requires ELEC to post on its website for easy public access each notice of representation containing information on the dollar amount paid to a governmental affairs agent by a state or local government entity.
The measure now heads to the governor’s desk.