The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon vs FEC striking down aggregate limits on donations to political parties and candidates casts doubt on the constitutionality of similar caps under local pay-to-play ordinances in New Jersey, and may provide ammunition for government contractors and others to challenge the laws. Law 360’s Martin Bricketto interviewed Partner Laurence D. Laufer and Counsel Rebecca Moll Freed of the form’s Corporate Political Activity Law Practice Group on the potential impact of the decision on local laws in the Garden State.
“New Jersey’s statewide campaign finance laws don’t set aggregate limits on what contributors can give over a particular period of time to different candidates or parties, but many local pay-to-play laws across the state — which are intended to hinder the influence of campaign cash on government work — impose such restrictions on business entities seeking public contracts, according to Rebecca Moll Freed of Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster LLC… There are key differences between those caps and those that the Supreme Court sunk in its 5-4 decision —but the ruling may still strengthen constitutional arguments against the state rules, Freed said.”
The article continued, “ The fact that the laws’ aggregate limits only apply in the context of government contracting is indeed a key distinction compared to the caps at issue in McCutcheon, according to Genova Burns partner Laurence Laufer…. And while the federal limits applied to a single contributor, the pay-to-play laws are more stringent in their scope because they rope in contributors that may be affiliated with one another through a business entity and subject them to the same aggregate caps, according to Laufer….. ‘Aggregate limits as a general principle are now on shakier ground than they were.”