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New Jersey Senate chambers in Trenton. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Senate, Assembly both push off vote on Election Transparency Act

Concerns from several Democratic legislators could prompt changes to current proposal

By Joey Fox and David Wildstein, February 27 2023 1:38 pm

The New Jersey State Senate and Assembly have chosen to delay a vote on the Elections Transparency Act, a controversial piece of legislation that changes the state’s limits on campaign contributions and reshapes the state’s campaign finance watchdog; the bill had been set for a vote in

Three sources with direct knowledge of the Senate’s plans said that some amendments to the proposal that came out of committee last Thursday are planned, possibly to temper some objections raised privately by several Democratic senators.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel), one of the bill’s sponsors in the Assembly, similarly said that some amendments to the bill that were made before last Thursday’s committee hearings had caused concern.

“We need to make sure that … the amendments that were put through on Thursday are good for us, which we don’t think they are as it stands,” she said. “We’re going to try to make corrections on that, and then we’re going to see where we stand.”

If enacted, the bill would double campaign contribution limits, end local pay-to-play laws, and require dark money groups to disclose donors. It also changes the post of executive director of the independent New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) to being a gubernatorial appointee serving at the pleasure of the governor.

Republicans had opposed the bill, and several Democratic senators told leadership today that they would not support the measure. While the bill may still have had 21 yes votes from the majority, it would have been barely 21, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.

Legislators first began debating the Elections Transparency Act last summer, when it was more narrowly focused on campaign contribution limits and independent expenditures. It was set for a vote in the Senate in late June – just a week after it was first introduced – but was pulled at the last minute following outcry from progressive groups and unions.

Late last year, it quietly began making progress through the legislature once again, and it came before a final committee in each chamber last Friday. By then, it had been loaded with several new amendments regarding ELEC and party housekeeping accounts, which only made progressives and Republicans even more skeptical of the bill.

In the short term, the bill would mean that politicians and parties across the state are able to raise much more money, allowing them to put more cash into the 2023 elections (and rely less on outside groups to do so for them). That will likely be to the benefit of Democrats, who are generally more proficient at fundraising than their Republican counterparts.

It would also mean that Murphy is able to dump ELEC executive director Jeff Brindle, whom Politico NJ reported is in an ongoing battle with the governor’s administration over an insensitive email he sent last year.

Julia Sass Rubin, a Rutgers professor who supports lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of organized lines in federal court, said in an Op-Ed published in the New Jersey Globe on Sunday evening that the bill “is an open invitation for corruption and abuse.”

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