On March 20th, the New Jersey Senate passed the Election Transparency Act (S2866). This Thursday, the Assembly will be voting on their companion bill (A4372). If passed, the Senate and Assembly versions of the bills will get reconciled, and go to the Governor for his signature. The movement of this bill has been swift, despite the loudly-voiced opposition of advocates and political watchdogs. As district leaders for the Maplewood Democratic Committee, we have serious concerns with this bill and its implications for the state and for Maplewood.
Despite its name, this Election Transparency Act creates even less transparency in government in New Jersey. Even in its third iteration, this bill still contains significant problems, by decreasing the independence of the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), the government agency that upholds our campaign finance regulations; by limiting the statute of limitations on investigations from ten years to two; by giving the Governor the one-time ability to replace commissioners without needing Senate confirmation; and by weakening New Jersey’s pay-to-play laws that stop political contributions from influencing the award of government contracts.
Maplewood has taken the pay-to-play issue seriously by passing an Ordinance in 2006 prohibiting awarding public contracts to campaign contributors. Passage would dismantle our Township’s local Ordinance, allowing these campaign contributions by public contractors, including in towns where they do business.
Equally worrisome is allowing for pay-to-play in our own Maplewood Democratic Committee, as it would newly permit entities with local government contracts to donate to local political organizations. These are not values that we believe represent the Democratic party and, by extension, our local Democratic committee.
The Election Transparency Act has no place in our government. We call on legislators to pause, to work with experts and advocates, and listen to voters to craft a genuinely transparent solution that strengthens our ethics and campaign finance laws.
The Maplewood Democratic Committee