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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker.

Lawmakers still looking to cleanup dark money bill

They won’t move until court challenges subside

By Nikita Biryukov, December 16 2019 8:57 pm

The legislature is aiming to take another pass at a law mandating donor disclosure for certain non-profit groups, but they won’t be ready to move until lawsuits against the measure are resolved.

“We introduced two other sort of cleanup bills to try to get at this, but until the court rules, it doesn’t really make any sense to move on any of this,” Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, the dark money bill’s chief sponsor said. “So, we’re ready to go, but we have to see how the court decides.”

The measure, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed under the threat of an override after passing a functionally-identical measure, requires 501(c)(4) groups that spend money to impact elections, legislation or regulations disclose their high-money donors.

Such groups would have to disclose donors who gave $10,000 or more when making expenditures in excess of $3,000.

The law is facing court challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Prosperity.

The ACLU claims the law casts too broad a net and chills giving to issues-advocacy non-profit groups, while AFP claims the law impedes free speech.

Senate President Steve Sweeney has previously criticized the administration’s handling of the suit, claiming it wasn’t actually seeking to defend the law because Murphy wanted it tossed out.

The law is on hold pending the outcome of the suits.

The governor signed the bill after he, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin agreed on a cleanup bill, though Sweeney balked at the measure proposed, which would have provided cover to groups like New Direction New Jersey, a non-profit run by allies of the governor that has advocated for his policy priorities.

Conversations about a future cleanup likely won’t move forward until the court challenges are resolved.

“I have not had any conversations so far in terms of what is the right approach to this, so to be determined,” Zwicker said. “Everyone’s in a wait and see mode.”

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