The bill, sponsored by Senate President Nicholas Scutari, would remove checks on corruption and government spending, critics say in a letter. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)
A coalition of progressive, environmental, and labor groups are urging Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Gov. Phil Murphy to stop a plan that would radically change New Jersey’s campaign finance law.
In a Tuesday letter to the two Democratic leaders, 25 groups — including the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Communications Workers of America Local 1032, and Service Employees International Union 32BJ — asked the powerful Democrats to step back from a bill that appears poised to pass the full Senate on Wednesday.
“Ironically, at the same time as our elected leaders are promising a renewed focus on ‘affordability,’ this bill would drive up costs for taxpayers by removing checks on corruption and government spending that benefits politically connected companies,” they said in the letter.
The bill, sponsored by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), would double contribution limits for political candidates, party organizations, and other types of political committees.
The measure would exempt contributions to political parties and legislative leadership committees from the list of those that could bar a firm from securing public contracts, and it would prevent municipalities from enacting their own pay-to-play rules, a move advocates have argued effectively guts the state’s anti-corruption law.
“If we move forward on this, it would worsen the already terrible problem of professional service firms essentially controlling the state and county governments and local governments,” said Sue Altman, state director of New Jersey Working Families.
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, the state’s campaign finance watchdog, supports the bill. Jeff Brindle, the agency’s executive director, last week told the New Jersey Monitor the pay-to-play changes are meant to simplify a law he said was notoriously difficult to enforce and comply with.
He also backed provisions raising contribution limits, noting they would aid his commission’s long-standing goal of reducing the influence of groups like social welfare nonprofits, which can be active politically but are not required to report their spending or fundraising.
The bill unanimously cleared committees in both chambers this week.
A spokesperson for Murphy declined to comment.
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