With the new year comes an opportunity to review and re-set the political-law compliance for campaigns, PACs, lobbyists, businesses, and individuals. The following checklist provides a brief overview of upcoming dates on the political-compliance calendar for 2022.
- Candidate ELEC Reporting
New Jersey state and local candidates should continue with their standard ELEC reporting. If 2022 is an election year for a given candidate, the candidate should report using the pre-election and post-election reporting schedule published by ELEC. Otherwise, candidates are still generally required to report activity on a quarterly basis even if there is no election scheduled for this year for that candidate.
Contributors to candidates must keep in mind that contribution and reporting limits for candidates do not re-set based on the start of a new calendar year. Instead, contribution limits for candidates follow the election calendar. For example, if John Doe already contributed the maximum amount to Candidate Smith for the 2022 primary election in contributions made in 2021 or earlier, Contributor Doe is still maxed out for this candidate until after the June 2022 primary election.
- PAC and Political Party ELEC Reporting
ELEC-registered PACs and political parties must report their activity from the 4th Quarter of 2021 in the January 2022 quarterly report. This report, normally due on the 15th day following the close of the quarter, is due January 18, 2022, as the first business day following January 14.
As opposed to candidates whose contribution limits follow the election periods, PACs and political parties follow a calendar-year reporting period. Therefore, even if an individual had maxed out to a PAC in 2021, that individual is now starting with a fresh slate for contributions in 2022.
- Lobbying Reports
Registered lobbyists in New Jersey actually have two upcoming lobbying reports due to ELEC.
First, the regular quarterly activity reports for lobbyists for the 4th Quarter of 2021 are due on January 10, 2022.
Second, annual reports that cover in detail all lobbying clients and lobbying receipts for all of 2021 are due on February 15, 2021. This annual report must actually be filed by both the lobbyist and the represented client, though in some cases the client can designate its lobbying firm to file on behalf of the client. Many businesses do not recognize that the decision to hire a New Jersey lobbyist gives rise to annual reporting requirements that must be handled by the client directly, so it is important for lobbyists and their clients to communicate about this reporting obligation.
- Professional Fundraising Reporting
Under New Jersey law, a professional campaign fundraiser that receives compensation of at least $5,000 per year for fundraising activity must register with ELEC and must file quarterly activity reports. The start of the year is a good opportunity to review compensation records from 2021 and to anticipate 2022 compensation to determine whether registration as a professional campaign fundraiser is required. For fundraisers that are already registered, the activity from the 4th Quarter of 2021 must be reported by January 18, 2022.
- Financial Disclosures
Elected officials and other government employees are generally required to file an annual financial disclosure. The specific form and the filing deadline will depend on the level of government. For example, local government officials file their financial disclosures with the Department of Community Affairs and this report is generally due April 30 of each year. In contrast, legislative officials file their report with the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards and the deadline is generally May 15 of each year.
- Form BE Annual Pay-to-Play Disclosure
With the close of 2021, business entities that hold New Jersey government contracts, at the state or local levels, can begin preparations for their annual pay-to-play disclosure. This annual report will include information regarding the business entity’s government contracts and political contributions (made by the business entity and its covered individuals, including owners, officers, and directors) during 2021. This filing is due March 30 of each year.
Compliance Tip: With the start of the new year, there is no better time to ensure that your political-activity compliance is on the right track. Making a clean compliance program and plan a priority in the early part of the year is the key to avoiding headaches during the rest of 2022.
Avi D. Kelin, Esq. is Counsel in Genova Burns LLC’s Corporate Political Activity Law Practice Group and Chair of the firm’s Autonomous Vehicle Law Practice.
This column is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. It is recommended that readers not rely on this column, but that professional advice be sought for individual matters.