Guide Political Contributions in New Jersey
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (the "Commission" or "ELEC") recently amended its rules to adjust the campaign contribution limits and thresholds under the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act, N.J.S.A. 19:44A-1 et seq., (the "Act"). The changes took effect on January 1, 2001.
Corporate political contributions are specifically authorized subject to certain limits in New Jersey under the Act. Further, ELEC regulations expressly provide for corporate contributions to political committees ("PCs"), continuing political committees ("CPCs") or political action committees (more commonly known as "PACs") and place no limitation on the amount a corporation may contribute. However, certain regulated entities, e.g., telephone companies, banks, insurance companies and casinos and their affiliates are statutorily prohibited from making contributions under the New Jersey statutes and advisory opinions issued by the Attorney General. The building industry, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, legal, medical and dental professions, and real estate business are examples of entities that are not "regulated" and are outside the scope of the political contributions ban. Regulated entities are also not permitted to use their funds to establish, administer or to solicit contributions for PCs or CPCs. The ELEC regulations prevent entities which are commonly-owned or controlled from making contributions which, in the aggregate, exceed the contribution limits.
- The contribution limits apply to each election. The primary and the general elections are considered separate elections for this purpose.
- The maximum contribution an individual can make to one candidate for the State Legislature is $2,200. The $2,200 maximum contribution also applies to corporations, unions and associations or groups, unless the corporation is a regulated entity and, as such, is prohibited from making political contributions.
- Campaign financing laws are designed to inform the public of the source of campaign funds. Therefore, all contributions must be made in the true name of the person making the contribution. Making contributions anonymously, in a fictitious name, through or in the name of another person, directly or indirectly, is prohibited.
- Persons making contributions are not required to register or file reports with ELEC, only those receiving (i.e., the candidate or office-holder) a contribution must report contributions.
- PCs and CPCs must register with ELEC and file regular reports describing their contributions and expenditures.
- A partnership, including limited liability partnerships, limited partnerships, limited partnership associations or similar associations of two or more persons, and limited liability companies are prohibited from making contributions as an entity. Any contribution written on a check from such an entity must be allocated to one or more of the partners or members of the entity. This can be on a separate paper accompanying the check.
- Out-of-state candidates and committees, including certain Federal PACs, may make contributions in State and local elections. Such contributions are subject to the same limits as those from an association or group.
- In-kind goods and services are subject to the statutory contribution limits, unless such services are performed on a voluntary basis.
- The penalties can be severe for intentional violations. If one knowingly and willfully contributes in excess of the statutory limit, a fine of between $5,000 and $100,000 can be imposed, depending on the amount of the contribution.
- The Election Law Enforcement Commission is empowered to investigate possible violations of New Jersey's campaign contributions law.
For more information, and a list of contribution limits in New Jersey campaigns, please call Riker Danzig partner Mary Kathryn Roberts in our Trenton office. This document is For informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a legal opinion. An attorney should be consulted to determine the implications of these laws in specific situations.