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By Ed Potosnak, Marcia Marley and Saily Avelenda
The New Jersey Legislature needs to act now to protect our state’s progressive advocates.
For the past several months, the Legislature and Governor Murphy have publicly debated measures aimed at tightening public disclosure requirements for organizations that fight for clean air and drinking water, civil liberties, racial justice and reproductive rights.
While shining a light on Trenton is a laudable goal, the bill that was signed into law by Governor Murphy has serious flaws that both violate the Constitution and threaten progressive advocates.
The bill as signed into law requires an unparalleled amount of financial disclosure from organizations that don’t participate in electoral politics – making it more difficult for progressive organizations to fundraise. The new requirements for small grassroots non-profits would be difficult to comply with and would force a national groups to disclose out-of-state activities to New Jersey regulatory agencies.
In addition, the law avoids placing any new requirements on government contractors and trade associations – creating an uneven playing field that benefits politically connected special interests.
These requirements will have a chilling effect on fundraising and will also provide a roadmap for conservative organizations looking to target progressive causes. And they violate numerous provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
In response to the concerns raised by the progressive community, Governor Murphy hammered out a deal with the Legislature to address our most serious concerns with a companion fix bill.
Yet while the governor lived up to his end of the agreement and signed this faulty bill into law earlier in the week, fix legislation to address critical issues is still awaiting action in the Legislature.
The fix bill, introduced by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Princeton), removes some of the most troublesome problems.
It isn’t perfect. We are asking for some more improvements to ensure freedom of speech is not infringed.
But the time to have a deeper discussion about ways of improving our campaign finance and lobbying disclosure laws is after this fix is sent to the governor’s desk.
We take the governor and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin at their words that an agreement is in place to address our concerns.
But we also know that, with the swirl of budget season upon us, we are fast losing a window to get a clean-up bill signed into law before these new disclosure rules go into effect. And we are concerned by statements from Senate President Steve Sweeney that he’s not contemplating movement on any clean-up bill at this time.
The progressive community cannot afford the legislation to be implemented as currently written. This is particularly true because the bill creates an uneven playing field.
While forcing unprecedented disclosures for grassroots advocates and progressives, it shields from disclosure powerful special interests that operate through trade associations and other corporate interests from disclosure.
This isn’t just unfair. It’s dangerous.
And we hope that lawmakers who have stood with us to fight for New Jersey families in the past will stand with us again to protect our advocacy work going forward.
The progressive community needs the Legislature to be its champion and to stand with us – instead of the special interests. Lawmakers must post and pass the compromise legislation immediately.
Ed Potosnak is Executive Director of the League of Conversation Voters of New Jersey, Marcia Marley is President of Blue Wave NJ and Saily Avelenda is Executive Director of NJ11th for Change.