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Tufo v. National Republican Senatorial Committee

Decided: March 26, 1991.

ROBERT J. DEL TUFO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE; REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE AND AFT CORP., DEFENDANTS



Kimmelman, J.s.c.

Kimmelman

[248 NJSuper Page 685] Application is made by the Attorney General for preliminary injunctive relief to enjoin the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Presidential Task Force (both hereinafter referred to as the "NRSC") from engaging in a particularized solicitation of political funds from New Jersey

residents. It is asserted that the specific fund raising plan utilized, the details of which will be hereinafter described, runs afoul of the Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq. ("Act").

The NRSC opposes the request for preliminary relief and moves to dismiss the complaint contending that the regulation of solicitations by national political parties in connection with federal elections is exclusively entrusted to the Federal Election Commission, and is thereby preempted from state regulation by the Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. ยง 431 et seq. Alternatively, the NRSC urges that the Consumer Fraud Act is oriented solely toward commercial activity involving consumers and should not be broadened to apply to political fund raising.

Factually, the Attorney General maintains that the fund raising scheme hereunder attack involves ordinary marketing conduct employing promotional materials mailed to almost 68,000 New Jersey residents. The materials are alleged to have the capacity to mislead or deceive the recipients. Each targeted resident received a three page letter describing the purpose of the solicitation, a two page brochure describing the planned publication of a volume entitled " Who's Who in the Republican Party " and a genuine check for $25.00, payable, on terms, to the recipient. A novel method of making political contributions was proposed whereby $12.50 would be electronically transferred each month automatically from the donor's bank account to the NRSC and the name of the agreeable donor would be listed in the " Who's Who " publication. The agreement would be based upon NRSC's representation that a two month test period could be conducted at absolutely no cost to the recipient: the proceeds of the $25.00 check being intended to cover the first two months of the monthly $12.50 automatic electronic fund transfer. The authorization initiating such transactions would be the endorsement and deposit of the $25.00 check by the recipient. At the end of the initial two month period, but before the start of the third month, the arrangement could be terminated thereby saving the donor any out-of-pocket cost

since the proceeds from the $25.00 check would equal the contributions made during the test period.

Details of the plan were set forth on the reverse side of the $25.00 check below the space provided for the recipient's endorsement as follows:

I authorize the Republican Presidential Task Force to Charge my account $12.50 each month in accordance with the terms and conditions stated below.

The Republican Presidential Task Force has advanced me money to try candidate escrow funding for two months. I understand that I may cancel the authorization to charge my account at any time after the initial two months by simply calling the task force at 1-800-877-6772 or by giving my bank notice of termination of this authorization pursuant to the requirements of the electronic fund transfer act.

A record of each debit will be included in my monthly bank summary and that record will serve as my receipt. I may contact the Republican Presidential Task Force regarding any dispute and the Task Force unconditionally guarantees that all refunds requested will be immediately honored.

The endorsing recipient would thus become a donor of his or her own funds if the plan was allowed to continue without ...


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