Wendy Guzman, the runner-up in a 2016 race for the Paterson City Council, was hit with a huge $31,610 fine today by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) for campaign finance violations.
According to ELEC’s report, Guzman failed to file reports for $15,797 in contributions and $15,776 in expenditures, which appears to represent the entirety of the money she raised and spent during her 2016 campaign.
The fine is notably large – it’s rare for municipal candidate fines to exceed even $1,000 – and stands in ironic contrast with the ultimate results of the election. Guzman, a former board of education member, came in second place with 572 votes, meaning that the fine levied against her represents $55 per vote.
Also released today were 15 other enforcement decisions against local and state legislative candidates, eight of whom currently hold local office. All of them were simply for late filings of statements indicating no money would be spent, and most of the fines were $275 or less.
It’s common for ELEC to take several years to release campaign finance enforcement decisions, and the ones released today were no exception. Most regarded campaigns that took place in 2019 and 2020, while the decision against Guzman comes nearly seven years after the violations took place.
Under the proposed “Elections Transparency Act,” however, ELEC would be forced to abide by a two-year statute of limitations for all decisions, a provision that would also apply retroactively. As noted by Politico NJ’s Matt Friedman, if the bill were enacted – it came close to passing the legislature last month but was pulled at the last minute – all of today’s complaints would have expired by the time ELEC released a decision.