May 20, 2019 •

New Jersey Dark Money Disclosure Bill Vetoed

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed legislation requiring dark money groups spending money to influence elections in New Jersey to disclose their large donors. Senate Bill 1500, carried over from last year’s session, requires disclosure of contributors giving more than $10,000 […]

Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed legislation requiring dark money groups spending money to influence elections in New Jersey to disclose their large donors.

Senate Bill 1500, carried over from last year’s session, requires disclosure of contributors giving more than $10,000 to 501(c)(4) groups engaging in political activities and lobbying.

In issuing the veto, Gov. Murphy said the bill contained loopholes and inconsistent disclosure standards.

He also expressed concern about the legislation not passing judicial scrutiny because of broad disclosure requirements beyond spending in elections for groups involved in issue campaigns.

The veto went on to recommend requiring companies receiving large scale tax credits from the state to disclose public contracts and political contributions to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

The recommendation also sought to strike a provision limiting elected officials from managing dark-money groups.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1500, which overwhelmingly passed both houses, argued the legislation leveled the playing field by requiring all groups to disclose if trying to sway elections, legislation, or policy.

The legislature can attempt an override of the governor’s veto or work towards amending the bill based on the governor’s recommendations.

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March 26, 2019 •

NJ Legislature Sends Independent Expenditure Disclosure Bill to Governor

Senate Bill 1500 has made it Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk after being introduced in early 2018. The bill requires committees to report contributions in excess of $10,000 and expenditures in excess of $3,000 to the Election Law Enforcement Commission. Additionally, […]

Senate Bill 1500 has made it Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk after being introduced in early 2018.

The bill requires committees to report contributions in excess of $10,000 and expenditures in excess of $3,000 to the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Additionally, when the contributor is an individual giving more than $10,000, the committee must disclose the occupation of the individual and the name and mailing address of the individual’s employer.

If signed by the governor, the bill will impact the January 15, 2020, independent expenditure report.

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September 28, 2018 •

New Jersey Special Election Scheduled

A special election for the Bergen County sheriff will be held on November 6, aligning with the general election. The former sheriff, Michael Saudino, resigned after controversial comments he said in January were made public. The county will send out […]

A special election for the Bergen County sheriff will be held on November 6, aligning with the general election.

The former sheriff, Michael Saudino, resigned after controversial comments he said in January were made public.

The county will send out an addendum to the already sent absentee ballots.

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January 26, 2018 •

New Jersey Governor Signs Code of Conduct Executive Order for Self, Future Governors

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 2A, which places limits on gifts and defines personal relationships for the governor of the Garden State. This order requires the governor to disclose gifts received from anyone he has met in […]

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 2A, which places limits on gifts and defines personal relationships for the governor of the Garden State.

This order requires the governor to disclose gifts received from anyone he has met in the past three years before being inaugurated.

“Anyone we’ve met since then is going to be subject to complete disclosure above the threshold of whatever the gift levels are,” said Murphy.

Any relationship established before then is considered pre-existing and is exempt from the order.

The executive order puts New Jersey in line with federal standards.

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November 8, 2017 •

Democrat Phil Murphy is New Jersey’s Next Governor

Democrat Phil Murphy was elected as New Jersey’s 56th governor. Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Ambassador to Germany, may impact Congress if he appoints a replacement for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. Menendez is currently on trial for […]

Democrat Phil Murphy was elected as New Jersey’s 56th governor.

Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Ambassador to Germany, may impact Congress if he appoints a replacement for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

Menendez is currently on trial for corruption charges and the jury began deliberations on November 6, 2017.  If convicted, Menendez will face pressure to step down allowing a Democrat, opposed to exiting Republican Gov. Chris Christie, to appoint a replacement.

Murphy is set to take office on January 16, 2018.

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March 9, 2017 •

Paterson Mayor Indicted on Corruption Charges

Paterson Mayor Jose Torres will continue to serve in office despite recently being indicted on multiple corruption-related charges. Indictments do not prevent him from serving, and city officials do not expect him to resign anytime soon. An investigation revealed Torres […]

TorresPaterson Mayor Jose Torres will continue to serve in office despite recently being indicted on multiple corruption-related charges.

Indictments do not prevent him from serving, and city officials do not expect him to resign anytime soon.

An investigation revealed Torres asked city employees to work at a warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew; city employees were also found to have been performing various jobs around his home.

Torres denies the allegations, claiming the employees were doing work on their personal time. Torres has served as mayor of Paterson on and off since first elected in 2002.

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February 28, 2017 •

New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds Agency Enforcement of State Pay-to-play Law

The state Appellate Division recently upheld two state agency decisions related to contractor pay-to-play violations. Della Pello Paving, Inc. lost two contracts totaling roughly $7 million and was barred from contracting with the state for the remainder of Gov. Chris […]

new jerseyThe state Appellate Division recently upheld two state agency decisions related to contractor pay-to-play violations.

Della Pello Paving, Inc. lost two contracts totaling roughly $7 million and was barred from contracting with the state for the remainder of Gov. Chris Christie’s second term because it made a $500 contribution to Somerset County Republican Organization.

State pay-to-play laws prohibit a contractor from receiving a contract exceeding $17,500 if it contributed more than $300 during the previous 18 months to a county political party committee.

Della Pello Paving challenged the state agency decisions claiming the contribution was intended for Sheriff Frank Provenzano’s campaign and not for the county political committee. The inadvertent contribution needed to be returned within 30 days to avoid a pay-to-play violation. Della Pello did not request and receive reimbursement until more than a year after making the donation; moreover, Provenzano was not running for re-election the year the contribution was made.

Following the decision of the appellate court, Della Pello’s attorney sought emergency review by the state Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the case.

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July 7, 2016 •

Jersey City, NJ to Consider Revising Pay-to-Play Law

Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun has proposed changes to the city’s pay-to-play laws. The changes would broaden the laws to include the city’s autonomous agencies as well as restrict some vendors from contributing to city elected officials seeking higher office. […]

Jersey_City_from_a_helicopterJersey City Councilman Michael Yun has proposed changes to the city’s pay-to-play laws.

The changes would broaden the laws to include the city’s autonomous agencies as well as restrict some vendors from contributing to city elected officials seeking higher office. The proposal would also extend the ban on no-bid city contracts, from one year to four years, for those who contribute more than $300 to a candidate.

Yun, a longtime critic of Mayor Steve Fulop, claims the changes are meant to close loopholes in the current law and not to target Fulop. In the past, Fulop’s donors have received large contracts with the city Municipal Utilities Authority, an autonomous agency not bound by current pay-to-play rules. Fulop is also rumored to be considering a 2017 gubernatorial run.

Yun submitted his proposal to corporation counsel for review and hopes to receive initial approval from council at its July 13 meeting.

Photo of Jersey City by David Jones on Wikimedia Commons.

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March 8, 2016 •

New Jersey ELEC Expands Pay-to-Play Reporting Requirements for Business Entities Filing Form BE

New Jersey law requires every business receiving $50,000 in government contracts in a calendar year to file a Business Entity Annual Statement (Form BE) with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) by March 30 of the following year. ELEC recently […]

New Jersey state sealNew Jersey law requires every business receiving $50,000 in government contracts in a calendar year to file a Business Entity Annual Statement (Form BE) with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) by March 30 of the following year. ELEC recently amended Form BE to require filers to certify the statements on the form as accurate, to acknowledge penalties for willfully filing a false statement, and to identify whether each contract was awarded pursuant to a fair and open process.

Businesses completing Form BE for 2015 can expect to spend more time filing, as determining if a contract was awarded pursuant to a fair and open process may not be as simple as it sounds. The term may be defined differently at the state, county, and municipal levels, and some long-term contracts to be listed on the form may have been awarded years ago.

The fair and open certification is just another addition to New Jersey’s notoriously complex pay-to-play rules. Because certain laws apply only to contracts not awarded through a fair and open process, identifying a contract awarded through any other process will likely highlight the contract for regulatory agencies.

Although the changes will certainly make filing more complicated, ELEC has yet to issue guidance on the new requirements.

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January 13, 2016 •

New Jersey Legislative Session Adjourns

The state Legislature adjourned on Monday, January 11. Among the business handled the last day of the session was an amendment to the state constitution to change how redistricting is handled. Due to criticism and a lack of support, the […]

New Jersey State HouseThe state Legislature adjourned on Monday, January 11.

Among the business handled the last day of the session was an amendment to the state constitution to change how redistricting is handled. Due to criticism and a lack of support, the measure was pulled, with state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who had sponsored the bill, promising the measure would be studied further and reintroduced in next legislative session.

The Legislature passed bills allowing counties to impose a hotel tax, to expand the state’s DNA database, and to require nonprofit hospitals to pay “community service assessments” to the counties in which they are located.

Bills concerning required sick leave for employees and required licensing and insurance for ride-share service drivers, like those who work for Uber or Lyft, expired at the end of the session.

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October 23, 2015 •

New Jersey ELEC Proposes Changes to Lobbying Registration and Reporting Obligations

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has approved the publication of a proposal amending lobbyist registration and reporting obligations. The proposal would require governmental affairs agents and represented entities to file all lobbying forms and reports electronically. A registration […]

New Jersey state sealThe New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has approved the publication of a proposal amending lobbyist registration and reporting obligations. The proposal would require governmental affairs agents and represented entities to file all lobbying forms and reports electronically. A registration number and PIN supplied by the Commission would act as an electronic signature and acknowledgement for forms and reports submitted electronically.

Furthermore, when a group of individuals, each registered as a governmental affairs agent, together represents more than one entity, the group will be able to file a notice of representation for a represented entity on behalf of the group. Notice of termination filed by such a group would need to indicate whether termination applies the entire group or to a specific governmental affairs agent.

Additionally, the proposal would require any changes to the notice of representation to be made by electronically filing an amendment. Lastly, the proposal would also require an individual registering as a governmental affairs agent for the first time to personally appear in Commission offices to submit the annual fee and required photographs.

The proposed amendments were published in the New Jersey Register on October 19, 2015, and will be the subject of a public hearing on December 15. If approved following the public hearing, the amendments are expected to go into effect in early February.

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May 6, 2015 •

Chris Christie Vetoes Expansion of New Jersey Pay-to-Play Rules

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed bipartisan legislation designed to expand the state’s pay-to-play rules by requiring the state to disclose fees paid to outside investment managers. The decision was made while Christie’s administration faces a new […]

Gov. Chris ChristieOn Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed bipartisan legislation designed to expand the state’s pay-to-play rules by requiring the state to disclose fees paid to outside investment managers. The decision was made while Christie’s administration faces a new investigation into New Jersey pension fees paid to financial firms contributing to Republican groups.

Christie argues the bill’s disclosure requirements would have had a chilling effect on the state’s ability to attract investment managers. Others criticize the governor’s decision and maintain he vetoed the bill because it would have complicated his ability to raise presidential campaign money from firms currently managing billions of dollars in the state’s public pension system.

Christie “removed the provisions that would prevent pay-to-play between state investors and national political organizations connected to state political figures, including the governor himself, and the changes he made to the disclosure requirements are far too weak” said state Sen. Sheila Turner, the Democrat who sponsored the bill.

Photo of Governor Christie by Bob Jagendorf on Wikimedia Commons.

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March 6, 2015 •

New Jersey Proposes Increase in Lobbyist Registration Fee

The Election Law Enforcement Commission has published a proposed lobbyist registration fee increase in the New Jersey Register. The proposed increase, which would change the registration fee from $425 to $575, is now subject to a 60-day comment period, followed […]

New Jersey state sealThe Election Law Enforcement Commission has published a proposed lobbyist registration fee increase in the New Jersey Register.

The proposed increase, which would change the registration fee from $425 to $575, is now subject to a 60-day comment period, followed by a public hearing scheduled for May 19, 2015.

The registration fee has not changed since 2004.

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October 15, 2014 •

ELEC Director Urges New Jersey Legislature to Overhaul Pay-to-Play

Executive Director Jeff Brindle of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission issued a statement urging the state Legislature to amend existing pay-to-play law. He claims constitutional challenges to federal laws may have ramifications on New Jersey’s law, and a […]

New Jersey State HouseExecutive Director Jeff Brindle of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission issued a statement urging the state Legislature to amend existing pay-to-play law. He claims constitutional challenges to federal laws may have ramifications on New Jersey’s law, and a complete overhaul is necessary.

Brindle argues state pay-to-play law is too complex and has unintended consequences. Contractors either stop making contributions altogether, seek ways to legally circumvent the law, or simply break the law. Moreover, donations to transparent entities such as candidates and parties have declined while the activity of PACs and anonymous independent groups has increased significantly.

Because pay-to-play law is worthwhile, Brindle suggests establishing one state law, ending the fair and open loophole, enhancing disclosure, raising the contribution limit, exempting political parties, and including restrictions on contractor contributions to PACs.

The statement represented the personal opinions of Jeff Brindle and not necessarily those of the Commission.

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