Home>Feature>Assembly drafting new dark money bill, Coughlin says

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Assembly drafting new dark money bill, Coughlin says

Lower chamber won’t back bill passed by Senate last week

By Nikita Biryukov, February 28 2019 6:03 pm

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin on Thursday said his chamber would not back a donor disclosure bill that the Senate passed last week.

“We’re still putting together a bill that at least the Assembly can agree on,” Coughlin said, adding that there was no timeline for when such a measure might reach the Assembly floor.

The so-call dark money bill would create donor disclosure requirements for independent expenditure groups attempting to influence the outcome of an election or public question as well as those supporting or opposing a given piece of legislation.

The bill is largely meant to increase transparency in 501(c)4s like the Murphy-aligned New Direction New Jersey, but amendments to the bill that some say have singled out the group and Essex County Freeholder Director Brendan Gill, a close Murphy ally, have renewed tensions between the governor and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

It’s worth noting that Gill said he does not believe the amendment was drafted to target him.

“I don’t view it that way,” Gill said. “I have confidence that the sponsors of the legislation. They’ll put a bill up that they believe in, so I don’t feel that I’m singled out.”

Coughlin has often played the role of peacekeeper between the state’s other two top Democrats, and it appears he intends to do so again, though he declined to comment when asked if he was holding the bill for that reason.

It is possible the Speaker is holding the bill so that other concerns about the measure can be addressed.

Several groups told a Senate panel last month they worried about a provision in the bill that would allow unlimited money transfers between county political parties during primary elections. They worried such a measure would open up new avenues for dark money.

“We do what we do in the Assembly. We try to be thorough, we try to be thoughtful. Not to say the Senate wasn’t. They were,” Coughlin said. “They did a good bill that reflects a lot of good things. I’m not sure our priorities four-square with theirs in this instance, so we’re going to work through it.”

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