Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker isn’t backing away from the dark money bill he sponsored over opposition from the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
“As the NJ League of Conservation Voters acknowledged in its public statement requesting a meeting to discuss whether or not to endorse my candidacy, the issues the organization is raising have nothing to do with environmental protection,” Zwicker said. “NJLCV endorsed me two years ago, and since then has supported my record on the need for clean energy, protecting water resources, and other important concerns related to New Jerseyans’ health and safety. I value my strong ties to NJLCV members.”
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 environmental group’s actions “vindictive.”
One Monday, the LCV asked to meet with Zwicker. Julia Somers, chair of the group’s state board, claimed Zwicker ignored their previous requests for a meeting.
Zwicker says otherwise.
“NJLCV’s claim that I did not treat them as a ‘true partner’ is erroneous. As the legislation I sponsored made its way through the legislative process, I met many times with NJLCV and many other environmental organizations,” Zwicker said. “I also spent hours on the phone with the Executive Director of the NJLCV and met with him privately for three hours. I listened to everyone’s concerns and did my best to address them.”
The assemblyman did not say whether he intended to accept the LCV’s meeting offer.
Zwicker’s 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.
The ACLU’s suit claims the disclosure requirements could prevent donors from giving to groups involved in sensitive issues, like abortion and LGBTQ rights, among others.
AFP argues the bill could hamper constitutionally-protected political speech.
A clean-up bill is in the works, though it’s not clear when that bill will make it to the floor.
Though clean-up was initially set for a committee vote in June, it was pulled after opposition from Senate President Steve Sweeney over concerns that the new version of the bill would not force New Direction New Jersey, a non-profit run by Gov. Phil Murphy allies that advocates for his policy priorities, to disclose its donors.
The clean-up bill may include measures to force certain pro-business groups, like the state Chamber of Commerce, to disclose their donors as well.
The disclosure requirements under dark money law focus largely on big-money donors and do not require organizations to publicly reveal the identities of small contributions.
“The legislation that was signed into law is not the ‘onerous’ disclosure law NJLCV claims,” Zwicker said. “Its requirement that organizations seeking to influence our political process must report any donations over $10,000 every three months, and more frequently around an election, brings fairness and transparency to an arena where public trust has unfortunately eroded.”
Through its PAC and super PAC, the NJ LCV spent more than $400,000 backing its endorsed candidates in 2017.
“There is no reason we can’t have a clean environment and clean politics,” Zwicker said.