State Sen. Nicholas Scutari on Thursday introduced a bill that would completely overhaul the state’s campaign finance disclosures, eliminating quarterly reports and requiring candidates, municipal committees and PACs to report fundraising in spending in near real time.
“It’s the beginning of a discussion as far as I’m concerned to change our campaign finance laws so that there is full disclosure,” Scutari said. “And I think that’s the direction we should be moving in.”
The measure would remove contribution limits for those groups and require they report any donations over $200 and all spending within 72 hours.
Currently, candidates and various types of political committees report campaign finance figures once a quarter, with additional disclosures due in the days before and after a given election.
The bill is still in its nascency, and Scutari said he was willing to entertain amendments, including from Republicans.
“I’m working with some Republicans to try to get it to be a bipartisan bill. I think it’s time that we start looking at moving into the 21st century with disclosure of campaign donations,” he said. “People should know exactly who’s giving to where and basically when it’s done.”
Jeff Brindle, the executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, has long called for changes to the state’s campaign finance laws that would direct money to candidates and party organizations instead of certain independent groups with far laxer reporting requirements.
“We’re going to certainly seek out his counsel and his thought process on this if we get some traction on it, because I think we need to move forward in a different direction than these rules that we have that I don’t think have been thought about for quite a while,” Scutari said.
He may run into some roadblocks.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy said he was not familiar with the bill but suggested he would oppose removing contribution limits altogether.
“As a general matter, I’m not wild about lifting limits, even though it makes — particularly for my wife, these days — the work harder,” Murphy said, speaking generally. “I’ve generally been a for-limit person and always been for transparency, and I’ll stay that way.”
First Lady Tammy Murphy has taken the lead on fundraising for her husband’s re-election campaign.
Scutari said he believed limits on contributions to candidates, currently set to $2,600 for individual donors in a given election, were arbitrary but added that nothing in the bill was final.
“It’s the beginning of a discussion as far as I’m concerned to change our campaign finance laws so that there is full disclosure,” he said. “And I think that’s the direction we should be moving in.”