Democrats' Pay-to-Play Petition in Clerk's Hands
The petitioners circulated Councilman Dan Hutchison's proposed ordinance, which targets Super PACs, and reportedly collected about 1,700 signatures.
A group of Democrats has submitted a petition supporting a local pay-to-play ordinance to the Gloucester Township Clerk's Office.
The ordinance is the same as the one the Township Council approved on first reading at its July 9 meeting, but later pulled from consideration. The measure, which targets Super PACs, was crafted by Councilman Dan Hutchison.
The Democrats' petition drive garnered roughly 1,700 signatures, according to Clerk Rosemary DiJosie.
The committee of petitoners delivered the petition forms to the Clerk's Office Thursday, Aug. 2. DiJosie's office has 20 days from submission to either certify or reject the petition—if rejected, the committee would have 10 days to remedy deficiencies as identified by the Clerk's Office.
The clerk indicated Thursday afternoon that her office had not begun reviewing the nearly 1,700 signatures to confirm their validity.
The committee of petitioners is Robert Richards, Joseph Pillo, Dora Guevara, Cindy Clark and Theresa Marrama. All but Marrama sit on township boards and authorities.
A total of 1,047 valid signatures are needed to advance the petition ordinance to the Township Council. The governing body could opt to not act on the measure—a move that would result in it going to voters on Election Day and, if approved, remaining law for at least three years unless overturned by voters in a subsequent election.
Hutchison, in presenting the ordinance to Council last month, expressed his concern over the impact of Super PACs on local elections. Super PACs can raise funds from corporations, unions and individuals without legal limits, and are not limited in how much they can spend.
"I expressed to you one of my main concerns was the Super PACs and trying to bring those donors out into the open," Hutchison told Broadacres Drive resident Joshua Berry, whose South Jersey Citizens watchdog group saw its hopes to have a pay-to-play petition ordinance put to voters in 2012 brought to an end this week by an appellate court decision. "And I believe this ordinance accomplishes that very important thing."
Hutchison requested by letter that his ordinance be pulled from consideration at Council's July 24 meeting, which he did not attend, "to allow me more time to investigate ways of improving the ordinance."
Berry told Council at the July 23 meeting that he agrees with Hutchison's intent as it relates to Super PAC contributions, but suggested that power lies with the state Legislature, not local governing bodies.
"You do not have the authorization to legislate campaign-finance laws on a local basis," he said.
Berry also takes issue with the fact Hutchison's ordinance would mandate the township use the so-called fair-and-open process—a process critics contend is too vague as written at the state level and results in elected officials rewarding campaign contributors with contracts.