New Jersey governor to sign donor disclosure bill conditionally vetoed in May

On June 10, New Jersey lawmakers and gubernatorial staff announced that Gov. Phil Murphy (D) would sign S1500 into law after conditionally vetoing the bill in May. The measure will require 501(c)(4)s, super PACs, and other entities to disclose their donors who contribute $10,000 or more.

What does the legislation do?

  • As enacted, S1500 defines an independent expenditure committee as any person or group organized under sections 501(c)(4) or 527 of the Internal Revenue Code that spends $3,000 or more annually to influence or provide political information about any of the following:
    • “the outcome of any election or the nomination, election, or defeat of any person to any state or local elective public office”
    • “the passage or defeat of any public question, legislation, or regulation”
  • Independent expenditure committees will be required to disclose all expenditures exceeding $3,000. These committees will also be required to disclose the identities of their donors who contribute $10,000 or more.

What are the responses?

  • Alyana Alfaro, a representative for the governor’s office, said, “The Governor looks forward to signing the legislation while working with the Legislature to resolve outstanding issues by the end of the month.” According to NJTV News, “a source close to the negotiations said … that Murphy agreed to sign the bill only with the understanding that lawmakers will pass a cleanup bill later to address concerns.”
  • Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said, “I think the administration knew that there was an override and that it absolutely would’ve succeeded in both houses. But, that being said, it’s not about trying to embarrass anybody. We wanted to get a piece of legislation passed that was meaningful and long overdue.” Sweeney also said, “The bill is going to be signed as it was passed. If the governor has concerns we can talk about them, but it has nothing to do with this bill.”

What brought us here?

  • On May 13, Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill, saying the following in his veto statement: “I commend my colleagues in the Legislature for seeking to ensure that so-called ‘dark money’ is brought out into the open. However, I am mindful that such efforts must be carefully balanced against constitutionally protected speech and association rights. Because certain provisions of Senate Bill No. 1500 (Fifth Reprint) may infringe on both, and because the bill does not go far enough in mandating disclosures of political activity that can be constitutionally required, I cannot support it in its current form.” With his conditional veto, Murphy stated his objections to the bill and proposed amendments to address them. This differs from an absolute veto, which is an outright gubernatorial rejection of a proposed law. Both are subject to the same override provisions.
  • Lawmakers discussed the possibility of overriding Murphy’s veto. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D), a primary sponsor of S1500, said, “We are actively discussing the possibility of a veto override. It is not my preference. But I do feel very strongly that this is a good government bill and we need to act now.” Senator Troy Singleton (D), another S1500 sponsor, said, “I think the atmosphere was challenged a little bit by some of the governor’s comments. [We] took offense to the idea that what we sent was somehow weaker than what was sent back by the governor’s office … we didn’t want to have the discussion steeped in emotion. We’re trying to take a step back to see if there’s a path forward.”


What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 72 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills in the past week. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number. Know of any legislation we’re missing? Please email us so we can include it on our tracking list.

  • California AB1217: This bill would expand the definition of “advertisement” under the state’s campaign finance laws, thereby extending existing disclosure requirements.
    • Referred to Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments June 12.