Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Group Contests Political Donation Limits

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Group Contests Political Donation Limits

Article excerpt

A Democratic group seeking to raise unlimited amounts of money to support or defeat New Jersey candidates for the Legislature this year is suing in federal court to overturn contribution limits ordered last month by a state agency.

The Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security -- citing the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United that unleashed a flood of spending by outside groups in last year's presidential and congressional races -- argues that state law puts unconstitutional limits on free speech.

"In the wake of Citizens United, numerous federal courts have held that political organizations like the Fund may accept and solicit unlimited donations from corporations and unions to make independent expenditures," the lawsuit says.

The group is seeking an injunction to start raising and spending money soon, and one campaign finance expert said New Jersey faces an uphill battle to defend its law.

'Inescapable outgrowth'

"I think it's a bad thing, but I think this lawsuit and the likelihood of the invalidation of state contribution limits in this context are an inescapable outgrowth from the Citizens United decision," said Paul S. Ryan, associate counsel of the Washington- based Campaign Legal Center.

The suit, which was made public Monday, applies only to fundraising and spending by independent groups that do not coordinate with candidates.

The group is not seeking to overturn contribution limits for candidates and parties, and is even preparing to abide by state disclosure timelines. But the state Election Law Enforcement Commission said last month that the group also had to abide by the existing $7,200 limit on contributions to political committees.

ELEC said in its ruling that it did not have the authority to "carve out certain exemptions" to contribution limits or find parts of state law unconstitutional, even though its executive director conceded at the time courts could decide otherwise. …

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