One Bill Will Eliminate Veil of Secrecy Created by Supreme Court’s Landmark ‘Citizens United’ Decision
Assemblyman Troy Singleton has introduced a two-bill package to dramatically overhaul New Jersey’s campaign finance laws by creating greater transparency through enhanced disclosure requirements and broadening the state’s existing pay-to-play laws.
“In one respect, this is designed to combat the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which essentially allowed corporations and super PACS to secretively pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns, essentially stifling the voice of the average citizen,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “This has become an impediment to the democratic process. By requiring independent expenditure committees to report where their money is coming from and what they’re spending it on, we can pull back the veil of secrecy that Citizens United effectively cloaked over the election process.”
In doing so, the first bill (A-3902) would revise “The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act” to institute new reporting requirements on certain organizations and increase the limits on the amount of money that may be contributed by individuals, candidates and committees to other candidates and committees.
Specifically, the bill would require independent expenditure committees to report contribution and expenditure information in excess of $300 to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
The bill also would prohibit a candidate from establishing, authorizing the establishment of, maintaining, or participating directly or indirectly, in the management or control of any independent expenditure committee.
Independent expenditure committees are defined as any organization organized under section 527, or under paragraph (4) of subsection c. of section 501, of the federal Internal Revenue Code that engages in influencing or attempting to influence the outcome of any election or the nomination, election, or defeat of any person to any state or local elective public office or the passage or defeat of any public question, or in providing political information on any candidate or public question, and raises or expends $3,000 or more for any such purpose.
The second bill (A-3903) would modify the current law regulating the awarding of public contracts to business entities that make campaign contributions, commonly referred to as the “pay-to-play” law.
In doing so, the bill would create one uniform “pay-to-play” law applicable at all levels of government, including the executive branch, state authorities, the legislative branch, counties, and municipalities, as well as local elective boards of education and fire districts.
“New Jersey has been grappling with the effects of ‘pay-to-play’ for decades,” said Singleton. “Over the years, we’ve made a number of strides to remove the influence of campaign donations from the awarding of government contracts, but we need to go a step further if we want to truly root out this influence and protect taxpayer dollars. Creating uniformity across every level of government and requiring more contracts to be subject to ‘pay-to-play’ prohibitions will help us achieve that.”
In addition, rather than prohibiting political party committees at the state, county or municipal level from receiving a contribution from a business entity seeking to enter into or holding a contract with the state, a state agency, a county or a municipality, the bill would instead bar business entities seeking to enter into or holding a public contract from making a contribution to a political committee, or continuing political committee, in addition to candidate committees and legislative leadership committees.
Furthermore, the bill would eliminate provisions of existing law that exclude contracts awarded pursuant to a “fair and open process” from “pay-to-play” regulations and provide instead that only contracts that are valued at $17,500 or less will be excluded from “pay-to-play” proscriptions.
Additionally, the bill would:
1) Increase the amount that may be contributed by business entities from the current $300 to $1,000;
2) Require business entities that contract with a government entity for $17,500 or more and make a contribution of money or other thing of value to an independent expenditure committee to disclose all such contributions; and
3) Add a definition of “independent expenditure committee” for the purpose of the reports required to be made by business entities of their contributions.
The bills were introduced on Monday and have been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee chaired by Singleton.