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Common Cause v. New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission

Decided: July 1, 1977.

COMMON CAUSE, APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY ELECTION LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION, RESPONDENT



Allcorn, Crane and Botter.

Per Curiam

[151 NJSuper Page 267] This matter is before us as an appeal pursuant to R. 2:5-1(e) to review the validity of a rule known

as N.J.A.C. 19:25-15.36 adopted by respondent New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, purportedly under the authority of the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act, N.J.S.A. 19:44A-1 et seq. with respect to contributions to the winner of the primary election for the office of Governor for the purpose of paying off primary election expenses.

We have denied appellant's motion for a stay of the application of the regulation but in view of the public interest have accelerated the appeal. See DeSimone v. Greater Englewood Housing Corp. No. 1 , 56 N.J. 428, 434-435 (1970); Clifton v. Zweir , 36 N.J. 309, 327-328 (1962); R. 2:9-2. Leave to intervene on behalf of the Bateman for Governor Committee has been granted. The Citizens for Byrne Committee was notified of this appeal and elected not to move to intervene; however, its counsel attended oral argument.

We first deal with the contention of the Commission that Common Cause lacks standing to initiate this review. Common Cause asserts that it is a nonprofit District of Columbia corporation with over 12,000 dues-paying members in New Jersey, and that among its major purposes is to make government more responsive through reform of the political process. These assertions are not controverted. We have no doubt that the New Jersey members of appellant organization have an interest in the validity of the regulation under review. We perceive of no reason why Common Cause, as a representative organization, should be denied access to our courts for the purpose of presenting the views of its constituent members. Crescent Park Tenants Ass'n v. Realty Eq. Corp. of N.Y. , 58 N.J. 98 (1971); Scenic Hudson Preservation Conf. v. Federal Power Comm. , 354 F.2d 608 (2 Cir. 1965), cert. den. sub nom. Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc. v. Scenic Hudson Preservation Corp. , 384 U.S. 941, 86 S. Ct. 1462, 16 L. Ed. 2d 540 (1966); Common Cause v. Democratic National Comm. , 333 F. Supp. 803, 808 (D.D.C. 1971). Cf. Sierra Club v. Morton , 405 U.S. 727,

92 S. Ct. 1361, 31 L. Ed. 636 (1972). But see Sierra Club v. Morton , 348 F. Supp. 219 (N.D. Cal. 1972). We hold, therefore, that appellant has sufficient standing to bring the instant appeal. Moreover, the intervenor, Bateman for Governor Committee, contends that a portion of the regulation is invalid. Thus, wholly apart from the question of the standing of appellant, we would have to pass upon the validity of a substantial part of the regulation in any event.

The regulation under attack, N.J.A.C. 19:25-15.36, provides as follows:

19:25-15.36 Payment of primary expenses after date of primary

No person or political committee shall make any contribution or contributions to a candidate, his primary election campaign treasurer or to any other person or committee on behalf of the winner of the primary election for the office of Governor in the aggregate in excess of $600.00 after the date of the primary election for the purpose of paying off primary election expenses of such winning candidate, provided, however, that the foregoing provision shall not be applicable in the case of a winning candidate who has elected not to receive public funding. All such contributions shall be reported in the regular fifteen day post-election report or the subsequent sixty day reports with respect to such primary. Such contributions shall not be deemed to be contributions to the candidate in the general election for any purpose, including the $600.00 contribution limit. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to permit expenditures before or after the date of a primary election by the state committee, county committees, or municipal committees of any political party with respect to the primary election expenses of the winner of a primary election for the office of Governor or of any other primary election candidate.

This regulation shall not be applicable to primary election expenses incurred in connection with the primary election held on June 7, 1977, but shall be applicable to primary election expenses of every primary election held after that date for nomination of candidates for the office of Governor.

Common Cause contends that the language of the regulation which permits contributions up to the amount of $600 to be made to the winner of a gubernatorial primary election for the purpose of paying off primary election expenses is in ...


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