A plan by New Jersey's campaign finance watchdog commission to raise contribution thresholds for 2013 gubernatorial candidates could result in added pressure on business groups to donate more, an election expert said.
"The pursuit of money in a campaign has already gone to levels we never really thought of even a decade ago," said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute at Rider University. "The fact that there are thresholds in the first place means there's more pressure to give."
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission approved Tuesday a proposal to allow contributors to donate a maximum of $3,800 per election to gubernatorial candidates, and $3,000 to candidates for lieutenant governor or the Legislature, in 2013 — an increase from the 2009 thresholds of $3,400 and $2,600, respectively.
"The person or business group that got away with past lower thresholds is now going to be looked at to give $3,800 by the candidates," Dworkin said. "The pressure will still be there for them to give. I think they'll be pushed even more to step up on behalf of their party and candidates by getting involved in supporting either or both candidates."
According to Jeffrey Brindle, ELEC executive director, the commission also proposed amendments to post candidates' personal financial disclosure statements online, noting the disclosure forms that legislative incumbents file each May with the Office of Legislative Services already are posted. In past elections, candidates were required to file two hard copies of the financial disclosure statement, and if members of the public wanted to view them, they had to visit the commission's headquarters in Trenton or request the information by phone, Brindle said.
"The state, in general, is moving in the direction of getting more things online," Brindle said.
Dworkin said the increased transparency would not impact candidates' ability to run for office or obtain contributions from business groups and individual donors.
"Anybody running for office in New Jersey has to expect that everything is going to be public," Dworkin said. "It's just not a big deal anymore to show what you do or don't have."