September 15, 2011 •
Comptroller and ELEC Director
Today the New Jersey State Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer and the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) Executive Director Jeff Brindle called for a simpler pay-to-play system, tighter contracting rules, and more complete disclosure of contractor contributions.
Comptroller Boxer issued a report finding the state’s pay-to-play laws contain “a series of fatal flaws [that] have essentially rendered New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play law meaningless in the effort to prevent local governments from steering contracts to politically favored vendors.” Director Brindle stated, “Unfortunately, New Jersey’s political history is littered with examples of private contractors securing lucrative public contracts through targeted contributions.”
The comptroller’s report suggests several changes, such as eliminating the fair-and-open exception which has different regulatory systems at the state and local levels, strengthening fair-and-open guidelines to require more competitive contracting, and reforming New Jersey’s contract laws to allow a more competitive vendor-selection process.
Drawing on earlier recommendations from ELEC, Director Brindle also made calls for changes, including for one state pay-to-play law to apply “across the board” for all jurisdictions, emphasizing “the current maze of local and state laws is terribly confusing.” Additionally, ELEC proposes that any public contractor receiving a contract over $17,500 file an annual report with the agency, listing the contractor’s contributions and public contracts. The current disclosure threshold is $50,000. Director Brindle also stated the contribution limits for contractors should be raised to help address fundraising concerns and not discourage participation in the political process.
“Combined with competitive bidding reform as suggested by the Comptroller, together these changes would, I believe, constitute the strongest pay-to-play law in the nation,” Director Brindle said.
August 10, 2010 •
Members of the public may now visit the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) Web site and read the actual scanned copies of financial activity reports filed by lobbyists in 2010.
The reports can be found at: www.elec.state.nj.us. They include detailed information reported to ELEC by lobbyists and the represented entities employing them. Among the details to be found in the reports are the names, contact information, salaries, and expenses for all lobbyists registered with ELEC.
In previous years, ELEC has provided summarized information contained in the annual lobbying reports. They were not available online until now.
In addition to the reports filed by represented entities such as corporations, unions, and trade associations, the annual reports filed by grassroots lobbying groups are also available. The reports detail the funds raised by grassroots groups through contributions, membership dues, and expenses associated with the group’s communication efforts.
ELEC’s reports show total lobbyist spending reached $57.6 million in 2009 with 1,001 lobbyists registered with the commission.
Map from the National Atlas of the United States.
July 15, 2010 •
New Jersey elections agency will be holding a meeting.
The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) will have a meeting at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at the Commission’s office located at 28 West State Street, 12th floor, in Trenton. Executive Director Jeff Brindle will be on hand to chair the meeting. The agenda is expected to include recent staff activities, campaign financing, and other matters of concern and interest to the Commission. There will be an opportunity for public comment.
July 14, 2010 •
The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) discusses its Pay-to-Play priority recommendation to the state legislature in its July, 2010 newsletter which is now available on-line.
ELEC recommends four Pay-to-Play reform steps it would like to see passed into law. First, ELEC recommends any reform of Pay-to-Play regulations should address the patchwork quilt of local Pay-to-Play laws which have developed over time. Current state law allows municipalities and counties to adopt their own ordinances provided they are consistent with the theme of “Pay-to-Play”. The lack of a standardized Pay-to-Play theme across jurisdictions has led to a myriad collection of laws which vary from place to place throughout the state.
Second, ELEC would like to see the confusing “Fair and Open” loophole as it is known, closed at the local level. “Fair and Open” allows local governments to forego the Pay-to-Play rules where bids are publicly advertised. In such a case, the $300 campaign contribution limit imposed by state law does not apply if a local jurisdiction has its own procedures for bidding and awarding contracts.
Third, ELEC asks for every public contract over $17,500 to be subject to disclosure requirements which are now reserved for vendors whose contracts exceed $50,000 statewide. Finally, ELEC would like to see the campaign contribution limit raised above $300. Citing the high cost of media advertising in New Jersey, ELEC states that the present limits provided by law are comparatively low.
The commission explains it is mindful of public concerns regarding the presence of money in politics. That said, ELEC feels its recommendations regarding contribution limits would be offset by corresponding enhancements to disclosure requirements. The ELEC newsletter may be found at: www.elec.state.nj.us .
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.