"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, March 19, 2007

The New Jersey ‘Clean Election’ Scam

How do you stop political corruption in New Jersey? Throw the crooked politicians in jail? No, you get taxpayers to fund their political campaigns. At least that’s the premise behind the latest “clean election” bill waiting for Governor Jon Corzine’s signature.

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.

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At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what is interesting, as a state employee I am pretty much restricted for running for office associated with a political party, I can run as an independent but I cannot be associated with any party BUT....BUT, an elected official who is party related can then take a state/county or municipal job.

At 1:08 AM, Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

We will have clean elections when and only when the average New Jersey voter pays attention to what the crud that passes for politicians are doing to the state and votes every single one of them out of office.

Unfortunately, that will happen about three days after hell freezes over.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger ballawana said...

New Jersey is known and continues to allow (who votes for these clowns anyways?) crooks in the state Senate and legislature. They are not held accountable and those that are caught are generally slapped on the wrist at worst.

The very liberal press in NJ loves scandal unless it involves Democrats which happens more often than not (I recognize that there are plenty of crooked Republicans too). These types of articles need more sunlight. Pressure needs to be placed on the crooks in government to clean up their act and legislation to protect us taxpayers who are getting robbed in taxes.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Ken Adams said...

"Pressure needs to be placed on the crooks in government to clean up their act and legislation to protect us taxpayers who are getting robbed in taxes."

Unfortunately, the only pressure that the crooks respond to is an indictment. They are secure in their positions because the party bosses control the nomination and election process.

I fear that the only feasible solution at this point is revolution. Borrowing from Emperor Misha I, "Rope, Tree, Politician. Some assembly required."

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

That is why Mr. Christie's work is so important. He is essentially a one-man cesspool cleaner.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger rmfretz said...

Voter turnout is key. Only 34% of folks showed up in 2003, the last time we had a year like this year. If every voter who's been popped with the AMT in recent years realized their liability and their property taxes are intertwined and showed up this year, you'd have the crooks in both parties run.

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Bob however, Jim and Chris Christie know that people need to be better informed and encouraged to vote.
We can collectively make a difference if we share reform ideas and take action to implement them. PERSISTANCE...
Politicians,prosecutors,politically appointed judges and people they influence need oversight and must be accountable for their unethical conduct and criminal activity.
Ted Rosenberg mentioned an independent judiciary committee.
Democrat Charles Schumer is the perfect example of "Conflict of Interest" when governing a judiciary committee because the agenda of the Democratic Machine is at stake.
Strong oversight/ethics/judiciary committees are needed in New Jersey, independent of politicians and political
party bosses.
The American people have the right to fair and equal protection under the law,
and our lawmakers will make change when we consistently pressure them to act.

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