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New Jersey Gov. Murphy appoints 2 Democrats, 2 Republicans to election watchdog posts

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday appointed four new officials to the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission.Murphy appointed two Democrats, Tom Prol and Norma Evans, and two Republicans, Ryan Peters and Jon-Henry Barr, to the commission. Prol will serve as its chairman.The new appointees’ enforcement roles remain unclear, but most of the commission’s oversight covers state spending, lobbying, and pay-to-play laws.

Exercising his power under a new campaign finance law, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has appointed four new commissioners to the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency.

The bipartisan slate of new Election Law Enforcement Commission members include a former state bar association president — who was the group’s first openly gay leader — a one-time lawmaker, a former deputy attorney general and a local prosecutor.

It’s unclear what effect on enforcement the new appointments would have. The commission oversees campaign spending, lobbying and pay-to-play law in the state.

In a statement Thursday, Murphy said he named Tom Prol to be the chairman. A Democrat, Prol is an attorney who served as the New Jersey State Bar Association’s first openly gay president, the governor said.

Prol will serve a three-year term, along with Ryan Peters, a Republican former Assembly member also appointed on Thursday. The other two members, Democrat Norma Evans, who works in the office of the state attorney general and previously served as a deputy attorney general, and Republican Jon-Henry Barr, the municipal prosecutor in Clark, will serve two-year terms.

The 2023 legislation that Murphy signed made a host of changes, including increasing spending and contribution limits, overhauling pay-to-play laws and shortening how long the state’s election watchdog commission can investigate campaign finance violations.

Among the changes the measure made are increasing spending limits in a primary for governor to $7.3 million from $2.2 million, and to $15.6 million from $5 million in the general election, as well as boosting the limit on individual contributions to candidates and parties from $2,600 to $5,200.

It also retroactively shortened the statute of limitations for the state’s campaign finance watchdog — the Election Law Enforcement Commission — to investigate violations from 10 years to two years, temporarily permits the governor to make appointments to the commission without Senate approval and ends individual towns’ pay-to-play laws.

Among the worst loopholes contained in the legislation, according to critics, is the expansion of pay-to-play laws — rules aimed at limiting what companies that hold public contracts can contribute to political campaigns.

The bill would allow recipients of state government contracts to contribute to candidates for governor if they’re awarded through the ‘fair and open process.’ The bill says that the public entity awarding the contract determines what amounts to ‘fair and open.’

Murphy’s appointees fill all four vacancies currently on the commission.

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