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State Street In N.J., the fighting will be for dollars, not voters

By , - Last modified: September 4, 2012 at 8:27 AM
Don't expect Barack Obama or Mitt Romney to make a strong play for New Jersey voters, experts say. Instead, expect both to make pleas to the pocketbooks of wealthy donors who live in the Garden State.
Don't expect Barack Obama or Mitt Romney to make a strong play for New Jersey voters, experts say. Instead, expect both to make pleas to the pocketbooks of wealthy donors who live in the Garden State. - ()

When Mitt Romney drew attention for making a fundraising-only trip to New Jersey in August, it highlighted what has become increasingly clear over the past two decades: New Jersey is a source for campaign funds, not a place to fight over electoral votes.

"We will never see a presidential candidate after mid-September, unless they slip in for a fundraiser," said Dale Florio, of Princeton Public Affairs Group. "New Jersey hasn't been in play for some time, and I guess you would consider us one of the main piggybanks for fundraising, but it falls outside the battleground criteria."

Florio said county and municipal Republican parties traditionally benefited from presidential campaigns in the state. While Republicans won New Jersey in every election from 1968 to 1988, the party was energized by late presidential campaign stops as recently as 1996. Bob Dole was trailing in New Jersey, but visited the Somerset County Courthouse in October.

"The excitement around his appearance — even at that point, in the waning days of October — was a boost for all of our local candidates, so it has a huge, huge impact for the party faithful," said Florio, chairman of the Somerset County Republican Party from 1992 to 2010.

"The fundraising certainly gets New Jersey leaders a seat at the table of national policy and politics," he said. "It doesn't help you invigorate your state, county and local campaigns."

The Democrats appear on track to win the state for the sixth-consecutive time, after the six straight Republican wins.

Michael P. Affuso, vice president of the New Jersey Bankers Association and a former counsel to the Assembly Democrats, noted the state-based donors who contribute to national races have a different profile than those most active in state and local issues.

"Federal donors care about big issues," including national environmental regulations and international affairs, Affuso said.

Affuso said while Pennsylvania and other battleground states may have more influence during presidential campaigns, New Jersey's voice is heard through Congress.

Regardless of the state's political future, executives will hear from the candidates — at least, when they're passing the plate.

Abuse statute of limitations bill raises business concerns

A bill advancing in the Legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations and broaden the liability for cases of sexual abuse of children, which is raising concerns among some businesses.

The bill, S-1651/A-2405, would remove the current two-year statute of limitations and broaden the standard for liability to include the abuser's supervisors.

Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, said companies that provide liability insurance for nonprofit organizations are concerned.

"The liability is completely unpredictable and enormous, the way this bill is designed," he said. Rayner said applying a "negligence" standard to supervisors and organizations could make nonprofit CEOs personally liable for abuse committed by employees, and could dissuade people from serving on nonprofit boards.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge) has been unwilling to make changes to the bill to lessen its scope, Rayner said. A separate bill sponsored by Sen. Paul A. Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald (D-Voorhees) would expand the statute of limitations to 10 years, rather than eliminate it, and wouldn't apply negligence as a standard for supervisors.

While Vitale's bill was dropped from the Senate voting session on Aug. 20 — when four Democratic senators were on vacation — the senator is expected to bring the bill back for a vote in September.

Assemblyman hopes to push angel investor bill forward

Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer (D-Passaic) said he was encouraged that a bill to benefit angel investors received bipartisan support in the state Senate.

The measure, S-581, was passed by the Senate on Aug. 20 by a 33-0 vote, and Schaer hopes for a bipartisan repeat for the Assembly version, A-1084.

The same bill was passed without opposition in the Senate last year, but received a party-line vote in the Assembly before being vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.

It's unclear whether the bill has a better chance of receiving Christie's signature now, as a standalone measure. It would allow investors in tech companies to take a tax credit equal to 10 percent of investments, with a maximum credit of $500,000. The Office of Legislative Services estimates its cost at $1.1 million to $2.5 million.

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