Click play for audio version of this story
Editor’s Note: This article was updated with comment from Mike DeFusco at 4:25 p.m.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said the city will not repeal its pay-to-play ordinance ahead of this year’s City Council elections Friday.
“Recently, my Administration had the opportunity to review a legal opinion prepared by outside counsel on the City of Hoboken’s pay-to-play reform and related campaign finance ordinances,” Bhalla said. “That opinion found aspects of our laws problematic and recommended the complete repeal of the City’s campaign finance legal framework. I reject this throw the baby out with the bath water approach. When I ran for Mayor, I abided by our City’s laws and I believe all candidates running should do the same.”
An outside review of Hoboken’s campaign finance ordinance found the law would likely fail to stand up to a legal challenge.
The measure limits the maximum contributions political action committees can make to candidates to $500, or $2,100 below the maximum contribution allowed under state law.
The law firm that conducted the outside review said a judge would likely rule that the law unconstitutionally limits the political speech of the affected groups.
Bhalla praised a resolution introduced by Councilmembers Emily Jabbour and Jim Doyle, who are not up for re-election this year, that would see the provision enforced through this year’s elections and commits to resolving the problems with the city’s pay-to-play ordinance after November.
“With the election coming up in less than two months, we need to make sure that all the candidates adhere to the same set of fundraising rules — rules designed to protect our city. It is critical that the Council send that message loud and clear by voting for this resolution,” Bhalla said. “At a time when the integrity of Hoboken’s elections are imperiled by schemes that trade cash for votes, it is imperative we do all in our power to safeguard the democratic process in our City.”
Five of the city’s Council seats are up for a vote this year. Bhalla is fielding candidates against four of the five incumbents seeking re-election.
Bhalla’s rivals on the City Council didn’t view the mayor’s move in a favorable light.
“This is a blatant attempt by the Mayor to distract attention away from the fact that his slate of Council candidates is being supported by a powerful, dark money Super PAC controlled by the city’s health insurance vendor,” said Councilman Mike DeFusco. “The Mayor and his allies can continue trying to divert attention, but what Hoboken voters truly care about is the integrity of our upcoming election. That’s why at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting I will be introducing a resolution denouncing the influence of dark money on our local politics and calling on all Council candidates to reject support from Super PACs.”
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher did not immediately respond to a 3:41 p.m. call and text message. This article will be updated with comment once it is received.