Philadelphia Inquire: Corzine Fails The Test
The Philadelphia Inquire takes New Jersey Democrats to task for lacking commitment to ethics reform and for being at their most inventive when trying to evade the law. In their view, Senator Jon Corzine and other Democrat Party leaders have failed the commitment test. – motivated by bad publicity, not a dedication to meaningful reform.
Just hours after acting Gov. Richard Codey signed the law, however, state Democratic Party officials held a fund-raiser with contractors who had already received a "tip sheet" on how to get around that $300 donation limit.
Contractors were advised that they could donate up to $10,000 to the state party's federal campaign account. Then state party officials could redirect that money to be spent on certain state campaign expenses.
Observers of New Jersey politics are conditioned to be hardened cynics. They knew pols would figure out ways to get around the new law. But few imagined they would find a loophole before Codey even put the cap back on his pen.
Worse, the author of this loophole advisory was Angelo DeNova, the Democratic State Committee's legal counsel who had helped to write the new law.
Even worse, when they were called on it, leading Democrats such as Codey and Sen. Jon Corzine (the all-but-coronated party nominee for governor) initially said they saw nothing wrong with this deception.
Fortunately, Republicans and some Democrats such as U.S. Reps. Rob Andrews and Frank Pallone raised enough of a fuss that Codey, Corzine et al. soon reversed their thinking. They realized that the relatively limited amount of money generated from this federal account wouldn't be worth the bad publicity.
But this episode doesn't really hinge on legal interpretations. It was a test of individual politicians' commitment to carrying out the spirit of the law.
Codey, Corzine and others failed the test.
Money always finds a way into politics, and there will be more efforts to thwart New Jersey's pay-to-play ban. But the state needs leaders who will seek to make campaign ethics laws work as well as they can, not ones who will be at their most inventive when trying to evade the law.