The NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission is proposing making miniscule changes to the way some reports are filed. They are seeking comments on these changes by February 17th. Below is the letter I sent them.
Michelle R. Levy, Esq., Associate Legal Director
Election Law Enforcement Commission
PO Box 185
Trenton, NJ 08625-0185
Dear members of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission:
In regards to your request for comments to the rules to enact the recent amendments to 19:25-8:12, I write to you to express my feelings over the state of Election Law Campaign contribution and expenditure reporting. In the past I’ve run for county and federal office, I’m the past Chair of the NJ Libertarian Party, and have managed several campaigns. The campaigns I’ve been involved with were all extremely small with no expectation of winning. Instead the motivation was to make an impact on the dialogue in the race. None of them raised or spent a substantial amount of money however were each impacted negatively by the reporting requirements.
The amendments to 19:25-8.12 are a good start, but they do not go far enough in simplifying the process for smaller campaigns.
I recommend the following:
- Drastically increase the reporting requirement for individual donations from $300 to somewhere around $5,000. The reporting of donors’ names can have an adverse effect on the privacy of donors. Currently every employer has the ability to look up the political contributions of each of their employees and possibly take prejudicial action against an employee. Your contributor search page even provides the ability of employers to search by employer name. Donations to candidates below a large threshold should be kept private.
- Drastically increase the filing requirement for individual candidates from $4,500 to somewhere around $50,000.
- Drastically increase the contribution limits for individuals to both candidate committees and political committees. The major parties have lots of donors who can give small amounts. A minor party could have a breakthrough with one angel donor making a large contribution. The state should not be limiting the ability of parties from accepting large donations from an angel donor.
I realize that making the above changes may require legislative action. I will also share this letter with my state legislators.
There is NOT enough money being spent in politics. Adding up all of the 2013 races in the State Senate, State Assembly, county, local, and school board elections (for both the General and the Primary) shows that about $91 million dollars was spent on elections. Consider that this is an average of just $28.68 per household. This is a miniscule number. It is just 0.04% of the average household income in New Jersey.
The current regulatory environment discourages political involvement by small groups and individuals and instead fosters an environment where only large well funded groups can afford to deal with the bureaucracy and legal analysis these regulations require. Small campaigns don’t have the resources to hire lawyers and accountants to manage the requirements.
The NJ Election Law Enforcement Committee needs to do a better job balancing combating true pay to play violations with having an open, competitive election process that allows citizens, candidates, and business entities to be involved in the political process without fear of retribution or obscene penalties.
Richard J. Edgar
Cream Ridge, NJ