Campaign finance bill concerning ‘independent’ expenditure groups released

TRENTON – The Assembly State Government Committee released bill A3863, which would require disclosure of the contributions received and the expenditures made by committees or organizations that are not affiliated or coordinated with a candidate, the candidates committee or joint candidates committee, or both, or a committee organized to support or oppose a public question.

The Democrats approved releasing the bill, but the Republicans – Assemblywoman Donna Simon and Assemblyman Chris Brown-abstained, saying the bill doesn’t have enough proverbial teeth.

Under the bill, such a committee or organization is referred to as an independent expenditure-only committee.  The term “independent expenditure” is defined as an expenditure that is made to support or oppose a candidate for nomination or election to public office without the cooperation, knowledge, or prior consent of, or without coordination or consultation with, or without the request, suggestion or behest of, a candidate or any person or committee acting on behalf of a candidate, or an expenditure that is made to support or oppose the passage of a public question without the cooperation, knowledge, or prior consent of, or without coordination or consultation with, or without the request, suggestion or behest of any person or committee supporting or opposing a public question.

Groups that are 527s, labor unions and Super Pacs are considered such independent expenditure groups.

“People should know who is paying for what,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender. “Knowing that can help inform the electorate.”

Jeff Brindle, executive director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), saying some $25 million in the upcoming gubernatorial election by independent expenditure groups.

Brindle said he is confident ELEC, which has approximately 67 employees, would be able to handle the additional workload, saying that about 10 groups would fall into independent expenditure only group.

He said if the bill is not passed, individuals behind such expenditures will remain anonymous.

Bill’s details

Among other things, the bill requires an independent expenditure-only committee to:

1) register with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) if it makes an independent expenditure of at least $1,400 in the aggregate or receives a contribution of $2,500 or more in the aggregate during a calendar year;

2) produce quarterly reports

3) have a treasurer to maintain all records of contributions and independent expenditures for a period of not less than four years;

4) file a cumulative report on the: a) 29th day preceding the election for which contributions were received and independent expenditures were made by the committee; b) 11th day preceding the election; and c) 20th day following the election for which contributions were received and independent expenditures were made by the committee;

5) provide an itemized accounting of all receipts relative to any contribution of $2,500 or more received, or independent expenditure of at least $1,400 made by an independent expenditure-only committee, which includes the names and addresses of all contributors;

6) file notice with ELEC within 48 hours of a contribution of $2,500 or more received between the 13th day before an election and the date of the election, and any independent expenditure made during that period.

Former Sen. Bill Schulter also supported the bill, but recommended some area of the bill be cleaned up.

Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club supports the bill, saying the only true way of understanding issues is to have “the light of the day” be shed on campaign finances. 

“If that flood (of money) is coming, we should know where it’s coming from,” he said. “We see this as a step forward.”

Campaign finance bill concerning ‘independent’ expenditure groups released