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State Sen. Troy Singleton. (Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Dark money law officially dead

Judge issues permanent injunction against controversial bill passed last year

By Nikita Biryukov, March 11 2020 7:55 pm

Legislative Democrats’ dark money disclosure law is officially dead.

A U.S. district judge on Wednesday permanently blocked the bill in response to suits from groups across the political spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Prosperity.

The decision was first reported by NJ Advance Media.

The groups sued on first amendment grounds, claiming the bill would create a chilling effect on political participation, infringing on residents’ freedom of speech.

The measure would have required certain non-profits, like 501(c)(4)s, that worked to affect legislation, elections or other types of policy disclose the names of donors who gave them more than $10,000 in a year.

The bill was the subject of considerable political jockeying last year.

It was launched partly in response to New Direction New Jersey, a 501(c)(4) run by allies of Gov. Phil Murphy.

The group ran ads supporting the governor’s agenda, often to the chagrin of Democratic leaders in the legislature.

Murphy initially vetoed the bill but signed an identical version under the threat of the first veto override in more than two decades.

Once passed, the bill began facing court challenges, and Democratic legislative leaders joined in on the lawsuit, claiming Murphy wasn’t trying to defend it in earnest.

More recently, they dropped off the suit and began preparing a replacement, which the bill’s sponsors say is still being worked on.

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