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Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker.

LCV wants to meet with Zwicker

Group withheld endorsement from pro-environment Democrat over dark money bill

By Nikita Biryukov, September 30 2019 11:04 am

The League of Conservation Voters wants to meet with Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker after having declined to endorse the Democrat over a dark money bill he sponsored earlier this syear.

“We are deeply troubled Assemblyman Zwicker sponsored legislation that would force onerous financial disclosure upon hundreds of grassroots advocacy groups fighting for strong environmental policies, women’s health, and other important issues while allowing powerful business interests, like the Chamber of Commerce and the Petroleum Institute to operate from the shadows,” NJ LCV executive director Ed Potosnak said. “We were equally troubled that the Assemblyman chose not to treat us like a true partner in the process by addressing the concerns of advocates and environmental groups.”

The LCV declined to back Zwicker because of his role in the dark money bill’s passage but endorsed his running mate, Assemblyman Roy Freiman.

Freiman declined the endorsement, calling the group’s actions “vindictive.”

The 16th legislative district is one of the few in the state where assembly Democrats are playing defense this year. It’s one of only two districts in the state with representatives of both parties. State Sen. Kip Bateman, a Republican, holds the district’s Senate seat.

Zwicker’s bill, which was the subject of some feuding between Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, imposes some disclosure requirements on 501(c)4 non-profit groups.

The bill has simultaneously seen praise and scorn from good government groups on all sides of the aisle.

The New Jersey ACLU and the state’s branch of Americans for Prosperity have sued the state over the bill, alternatively saying the disclosure requirements could prevent donors from giving to groups involved in sensitive issues, like abortion and LGBTQ rights, among other things.

AFP argues the bill could hamper constitutionally-protected political speech.

A clean-up bill is in the works, though it’s not clear when — or even if — that bill will make it to the floor.

That clean-up bill may include measures to force certain pro-business groups, like the state Chamber of Commerce, to disclose their donors as well.

Senate President Steve Sweeney has moved back and forth on such a bill, though sources close to the Senate President have said his reluctance was rooted in a prior version of the cleanup containing measures that would prevent it from applying to New Direction New Jersey, a non-profit run by Murphy’s allies that advocates for the governor’s policy priorities.

The LCV has seen its share of criticism over withholding an endorsement from Zwicker, a physicist with a consistent record on environmental issues.

“However, we value our relationships with existing lawmakers in Trenton including Assemblyman Zwicker,” NJ LCV chair Julia Somers said. “Though the Assemblyman did not accept previous invitations to meet with the Committee, we still hope he will join us to discuss the disclosure bill and other concerns directly with our Political Committee so we can have a frank exchange of views and consider him as part of our endorsement process.”

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