New Jersey governor signs donor disclosure bill; prospect of follow-up legislation uncertain

On June 17, Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed 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, the new law 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.

How are lawmakers responding?

  • Murphy’s office said in a statement he signed the bill “based on an express commitment from my colleagues in the legislature” to pass subsequent legislation to amend the provisions of S1500. Murphy wants to exempt some nonprofit groups from the new regulations (e.g., groups not engaged in election activities, such as the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters). Murphy told, “We had a very clear commitment … to do just what I said: They would pass the law, I would sign it and there was a commitment to work together to clean up particularly the stuff specifically to the advocates, within the month of June.”
  • Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) disputed this: “There was no reason for me to make any deal. We had the votes to do an override. All I’ve said is if there’s any unintended consequences, then we would adjust it.” Asked whether he would call for a vote on Murphy’s revisions by the end of the month, Sweeney said, “No. It hasn’t even been enacted yet. What am I fixing right now? What’s broken? What’s wrong with it? There was no need for a deal.”
  • Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said, “My understanding is our commitment was to work together to resolve any issues or concerns that remain after the bill was signed, so I took that to mean that we would work together.”

How are outside groups responding?

  • The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU reiterated its opposition to the legislation: “Civil rights organizations have pointed out the clear constitutional violations of this bill since its introduction. The courts have made it clear time and again that the Constitution does not allow the government to target organizations simply for speaking on issues of public concern. While the ACLU of New Jersey will continue to advocate for a legislative remedy, signing this bill into law also forces us to prepare for legal action.”
  • David Goodman of Represent NJ, a nonprofit group that advocated on behalf of S1500, said, “[S1500] level the playing field between publicly accountable political committees and secret independent ‘dark money’ groups swamping our politics and elections. Disclosure and transparency would shine light and inform the electorate. That’s what makes it a good government bill — pure and simple!”

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.

  • New Hampshire SB105: This bill would establish disclosure requirements for certain contributions made to inaugural committees.
    • Enrolled June 18 and awaiting governor’s action.
  • New Hampshire SB156: This bill would require that political contributions made by limited liability companies be allocated to individual members in order to determine whether individuals have exceeded contribution limits.
    • Enrolled June 18 and awaiting governor’s action.