The New Jersey ‘Clean Election’ Scam
New Jersey's plan to give taxpayer cash to candidates in three legislative districts to try to remove special-interest money from campaigns cleared the Legislature on Thursday.The bill does nothing to stop politicians from giving taxpayer money to special interests in exchange for their votes. It doesn’t stop politicians from lining their own pockets and creating pipelines of taxpayer funds to their family and friends. Those are the real problems bankrupting New Jersey.
It’s also not surprising that the “clean election” bill introduced and passed by majority Democrats excludes funding for primary elections. The primary is the only contested election in many districts considered “safe” for Democrats.
For Schluter and other good-government advocates, such as the New Jersey Public Interest Group, the measure's biggest flaw is its failure to provide public funding in primary elections, where the political machines wield the most power.Incumbent politicians will be further advantaged due to name recognition and the additional campaign financing restrictions placed on “clean” candidates. A third of New Jersey lawmakers gained their seats through political appointments to fill vacancies, rather than an election. Special interest groups will keep right on spending and working to get their candidates elected – no restrictions will apply to these activities under the "clean election” law.
New Jersey voters may long for clean elections, but 83 percent aren’t interested in paying for political campaigns from the state’s treasury. The tax check-off participation rate for New Jersey’s Gubernatorial Elections Fund is 17%. Public support for this “clean election” program has steadily declined since first enacted in 1977, even though checking the “Yes” box on the state income tax form doesn’t increase a filer’s tax liability or reduce their refund.
The major political corruption stories recently chronicled in the news have had nothing to do with campaign contributions. From Bid Rig to John Lynch, it’s been about money going directly into the pockets of politicians, not into their campaign coffers.
State Senator John Lynch (D-Middlesex) was found guilty in 2006 of political corruption charges - fraud and tax evasion. Lynch admitted that between 1998 and 2002, he regularly demanded and received payments between approximately $120,000 and $200,000 from a South Brunswick company in return for his official action and influence as a New Jersey state senator.
Lynch was New Brunswick mayor from 1979 to 1991, a state senator from 1981 to 2002 and Senate president from 1990 to 1992.
State Senator Wayne Bryant (D-Camden), previously chairman of the budget committee, is currently under criminal investigation for no-work publicly fianced jobs and funneling tax dollars to projects that have enriched him, his family and friends.
Bryant, until recently, had four taxpayer-supported positions. His wife, his son (until his death last year), two brothers and a sister-in-law all were on the public payroll.
State Senator Sharpe James (D-Essex), the poster boy for enriching himself, family and friends at taxpayer expense, is again under criminal investigation for a variety of actions and deals he made as Mayor of Newark. James’ multiple taxpayer-funded jobs and the padding of public payrolls with friends and family are infamous.
A taxpayer financed slush fund, controlled by incumbent politicians, is not our idea of taking money out of politics. It’s just one more way for politicians to take even more money out of taxpayer wallets.
New Jersey legislators have used their elected positions to land multiple government jobs, obtain lucrative no-bid contracts and fatten their state pensions. Taxpayer dollars are lavished on key constituent groups to buy votes, no campaign contributions are required. The last thing New Jersey taxpayers need is to pay for the political campaigns that make this fleecing possible.