Zwicker, Benson & Sumter Bill Establishing Disclosure Requirements for Independent Advocacy Groups Clears Assembly Committee

(TRENTON) - Under current law, 527 groups, 501(c)4 social welfare, and 501(c)6 organizations are allowed to keep their donors secret. In an effort to provide greater transparency and accountability, a bill (A-1524), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter was approved Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

"Information is power and we need to arm voters with the most information possible," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). "More disclosure will inform residents about groups working to influence political and legislative processes. Greater transparency will lead to an increase in voter confidence and that's a good thing for New Jersey and for democracy."

Under the legislation, so-called "dark money" groups would be required to make public their donors and expenditures. An analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission found the top 25 special-interest groups in the Garden State spent $74 million in an attempt to influence elections and policies in 2017, with $41 million coming from "dark money" groups.

"This bill will bring these groups out of the shadows and into the light," explained Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "Voters deserve to know everything possible about 'dark money' organizations working to influence the political process in New Jersey. This legislation empowers the people."

The bill would revamp "The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act" to enact new reporting requirements for contributions over $10,000 and all expenditures over $3,000 by "dark money" organizations.

"Groups that are trying to influence the outcome of any election or legislation should not be permitted to operate under a veil of secrecy," stated Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). "Disclosing donors and expenditures is not a novel idea. It's something we do as candidates. We're just requiring the same of advocacy organizations." 

The bill does not apply retroactively. It is prospective only.

The measure now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.