Contentious Election Transparency Act heads to New Jersey Gov. Murphy’s desk

The legislation requires so-called “dark money groups” to disclose campaign donations exceeding $7,500.

A view of the State Capitol and

The state Capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Evelyn Tu for WHYY)

A bill known as the Election Transparency Act is headed to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

The legislation requires so-called “dark money groups” to disclose campaign donations exceeding $7,500.

It passed the General Assembly by a 45-31 vote, largely along party lines. Democratic Assemblymembers Dan Benson and John McKeon broke with their party in opposing the bill.

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, D-Camden, sponsored the bill. Greenwald said he crafted the measure to counter a surge in corporate campaign spending following the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

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“[The ruling] has opened the floodgates for unlimited contributions and spending by wealthy interest groups all while voters are left completely in the dark without critical information about who really supports or opposes their candidates or the issues with which they are addressing,” Greenwald said on the Assembly floor Thursday.

The bill also doubles current campaign contribution limits and challenges local pay-to-play laws by allowing government contractors to donate to political campaigns — which opponents said dampens election fairness.

“The public at large has grown more and more cynical and distrustful of politicians in the political process,” said Gerry Scharfenberger, R-Monmouth. “One of the most common complaints is the obscene amount of money that seems to dictate the policies and interests of a few at the expense of everyone else. Bill 4372 will do nothing to allay these concerns.”

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The legislation also grants Gov. Murphy the power to appoint new board members to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, which is currently embroiled in scandal following the public release of controversial emails sent by ELEC executive director Jeffrey Brindle. 

In a 21-12 vote, the Senate also passed its version of the bill, with Sen. Nia Gill the lone Democrat to vote against it.

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