POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

‘Dark money’ bill would force organizations to disclose donors

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

For two and a half years, Sen. Troy Singleton has been pushing a bill to make independent expenditure committees disclose their major donors the way candidates do.

“Essentially, it puts these independent expenditures in line with campaign committees, if they’re in county party political committees, so that there is full disclosure. I think that people need to understand where the money is going, that folks are trying to influence public policy and the electoral process. So it sets up a mechanism for reporting and registration of independent expenditure committees through the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission,” Singleton said.

Singleton’s bill got momentum last month when a political committee that supports Gov. Murphy, New Direction New Jersey, reneged on a pledge to publicize its donors. The officers of that group blamed special interests for creating a toxic environment that required confidentiality.

Murphy called on them to make the names public, but, underscoring their independence, they said no.

Senate President Steve Sweeney criticized the lack of transparency, until it was pointed out that a super PAC linked to his ally George Norcross got a $55,000 dollar donation from PSEG just months after Sweeney helped pass a $300 million nuclear subsidy bill that benefited the company.

Now both sides support Singleton’s so-called dark money bill.

“I will tell you, I get less about the why’s than the fact we’re moving forward. I think related to whether it’s the conversation around Gov. Murphy’s issue advocacy campaign or the conversation as it’s related to PSEG. I think regardless of all that, we know this issue is something has been prevalent in our country and in New Jersey, and we need to put some parameters in place,” Singleton said.

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) supports the bill.

“Some of the groups that have been spending money in New Jersey have voluntarily disclosed their donation, but we can’t compel them to do so under our current statute,” said Joe Donohue, deputy director of ELEC. And, you can, by the snap of a finger, you could have all the money going into campaigns right now could all turn dark.”

Sweeney made the bill retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018 so that the pro-Murphy group would now have to disclose for last year. The bill passed unanimously in a committee last week and appears on its way to full passage.