Thursday, July 15, 2010

More on 501(c) (4)'s

Brain Nelson has some great thoughts on the issue that has the Neptune Newsies, the NJEA and Trenton Democrats in a huff at his New Jersey Election and Campaign Finance Law Blog :

The Interest Is Only A "Special Interest" When It Is Not Our Interest

In a frightening display, reports that New Jersey Senate Democrats plan to attempt to regulate certain 501c4 organizations that disagree with their political views, compelling not only the disclosure of contributors, but also applying pay-to-play rules to them.

Setting aside issues of federal preemption for the moment, Senate Democrat spokesperson Derek Roseman actually said that the proposed legislation would "clearly define the groups that were exempted" by "delineat[ing] between legitimate groups with a legitimate policy orientation and shadow organizations that are merely acting as a front for a political party." Further, Assemblyman and State Democratic Party Chairman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) said the application of such restrictions "would likely be based on the length of time the group had been in existence."

Does this mean that recently formed politically active 501c4's, such as Garden State Equality, which held events at which former Governor Corzine appeared at as an honored guest while advocating its agenda, and vice-versa, should be subject to such restrictions being sought to be imposed against Reform New Jersey Now by this legislation? Who decides?

While on the subject, why is the Legislature still avoiding real pay-to-play reform, such as that long-proposed by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, which would entirely ban both corporate and union contributions in New Jersey? In throwing out the restrictions imposed on labor unions under Governor Christie's Executive Order No. 7, the Appellate Division held that while the Executive Branch could not do so unilaterally, the Legislature could act to apply pay-to-play restrictions to labor organizations that hold the largest no-bid public contracts in the State of New Jersey.


Anonymous said...

Nelson is a huge tool, but he makes a valid point.

Too bad he rarely makes such substantive contributions.

Anonymous said...

I would rather have Nelson on my side then the other side thats for sure.

Bill Realman Stella said...

Misusing Garden State Equality as an example of "recently formed politically active 501c4's" is, frankly, stupid, when you consider GSE has been around for about 7 years. I'm sure Wisniewski's statement that they'd focus on groups without much of a history was made with the intention of directing deserved attention on the kind of mysterious groups that pop up out of nowhere and suddenly have money to run TV ads. A well-founded, widely respected group like GSE should never be linked to such hit-groups. ...Unless you're someone who is *trying* to cause confusion and misdirection among their readers. Is *that* what you're *trying* to do, Misters Nelson and Gallagher?

Anonymous said...

it is easy for Amy to keep restricting contributions, when she never raised much for herself!

Art Gallagher said...


I let Brian answer as to what he means by "recently formed" I went to GSE's website and couldn't find when they formed their 501 (c)(4).

Just because GSE has been around for 7 years, does not mean they did not form their 501 (c)(4) "recently".

There's nothing "mysterious" about Reform New Jersey Now. Their address is on the front page of their website (it took a little digging to find the address of GSE 5010c4 btw). The address is the same as Turnkey Productions, a Republican consulting, events management and fundraising firm. That's probably why the APP aka Neputune News, said that it is no secret who is behind it.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you keep visting and contributing.

Anonymous said...

"Misusing Garden State Equality as an example of "recently formed politically active 501c4's" is, frankly, stupid, when you consider GSE has been around for about 7 years"

Bill, with all due respect, when groups like the NAACP have been around for 100 years, yes, GSE IS a "recently formed politically active" organization. VERY recent.

Bill Realman Stella said...

[I'm back to post my final comment hopefully, at least on this issue. (It looks like I'll need to post twice for it all to fit.) Disclosures: Art and I had a dialogue off-line, and I spoke of Garden State Equality enough that I felt I needed to copy my remarks to them, since I don't speak *for* them. What follows refers to an email Steven Goldstein, GSE's CEO, sent to Art in response to forwarding email to GSE. I will simultaneously email the parts of this comment to Steven, as well as to Art. Here we go:]

Gentlemen, For the record:

Whatever the backstory is, regarding 501 c 4's and Reform New Jersey Now, and despite whatever disagreements I may have with RNJN's politics, my initial response at the MMM blog was made entirely unaware of any connection of RNJN to the issues raised.

My complaint was, and still is, that using GSE to illustrate a "recently formed politically active 501c4's" is a really poor choice (however much an anonymous poster wants to note the relative recentness of GSE's 7 years, compared to the decades-long or century-long existence of other groups). People are asserting a belief that "recently" equates to as long as seven years. I think that's a misinterpretation. It seems practically obvious that a far shorter period was intended. I still think it is good and reasonable to have oversight to ensure that political parties don't pump money into pseudo-groups that pop up out of nowhere to run some TV ads for a single election or election cycle (often not heard from again). I've watched plenty of TV ads said to be funded by some group I've never heard of again. Other than helping the bottom line of television stations, I've never seen them do any public good -- they certainly tend to inject irrelevant points into campaigns.

I can assure you that whatever I disagree with or agree with GSE about, watching it as a citizen staying as informed as I can about the news, it didn't pop up out of nowhere, it intended to be around for as long as it took to meet its goals (and not for one single election cycle), and every out gay NJ Republican I know (that *I know*) may complain about the Democrats but they all concede how terribly the Republican Party has treated equal rights issues for which Gay folks work, therefore GSE's historical alliances with the Democrats hardly seems unwarranted. (I assume, were I to look, that RNJN's behavior will similarly assure us that it isn't intended to be a fly-by-night, one-shot, funder of irrelevant-topic fear-mongering TV ads and, assuming it's not, I don't know why it appears to feel that the proposal -- yes, by leaders of the Democratic party -- on behalf of all of the state's citizens is presumed to mean to cause RNJN harm.)

It is curious that of all the groups that exist in NJ that have supported Democrats, when remarks are made about one man's fears about what Democrats are doing to deal with "shadow organizations", that man's mind leaps to NJ's preeminent equal rights group for Gay folks (aka LGBT). Then another man thought to re-post those remarks without it ever occurring to (either of) you how inappropriate a choice Garden State Equality is. No, I don't feel offended. I feel sad, sad to hear that's where you're at, sad it's just still knee-jerk scary to you when Gay folks assert our free speech, and exercise our political power. Mr Nelson's remarks really just sound like pot shots. [to be continued]

Bill Stella

Bill Realman Stella said...


And yes, Art, Steven responded to you directly because I also bcc'd my first email sent directly to you (and not posted to your blog) to Since I was not speaking *for* GSE, and no one who was speaking for them happened to join the comments, I thought it was only right that I send them a copy of our dialogue. I think we can all agree that at the least it is interesting how easy it is to get the info you wanted, the info that you complain publicly you can't find at GSE's website. All one needed to do was what I did: send an email to, the address at the website (one I found in 30 seconds of looking).

Art, you wrote: "I think [Nelson's] point was to let the world know, in response to Wisniewski's remarks, that "both sides" for lack of a better phrase (I don't consider GSE the other side, though many would) engage in 501c4 activity and that the Dems are heading towards to slippery slope if they try to regulate that speech." I wish that was what was said originally, because it focuses the issue better. And it would have not stirred me to respond and comment. But he didn't write that, what he wrote IS what I've responded to, and what he wrote is what you chose to re-post.

LIke I said, I'm not offended. I'm a big boy now, and don't have time for that. I am simply unwilling to participate in this environment any longer, nor to accept silently every remark by opinion-influencers. I may not have the political panache or connections you have, but when you've been writing as long as you have (something else I wasn't fully aware of until after I received your first reply, when I recognized your pseudonym in your profile) and you play the game like this, it takes more to be really welcome than to be invited back. To give the matter no further consideration than to come to Mr. Nelson's defense, with: "I didn't take Brian's comment as a dig at GSE," does not distinguish between polite words that pay lip-service to your own remark, that you "don't consider GSE the other side", and the substantive kindness you would have given had you made the point in the first place that GSE doesn't belong as an example of "the other side" any more than it does as an example of "recently formed."

I'm outta here. But now I'll be watching.

Bill Stella