Asbury Park Press

"Clean" Elections Reform Too Flawed To Succeed

Asbury Park Press — Thursday, June 30, 2005

BY STEVEN J. CORODEMUS
AND AMY H. HANDLIN

If you're not appalled, you probably haven't been paying attention to the state of campaign finance reform in New Jersey.

Despite numerous revelations of corruption in the existing system and a massive public outcry, changes in Trenton have been limited, shortsighted and half-hearted. This is certainly true with regard to pay-to-play legislation, which remains stuck in a netherworld of partisan grandstanding.

Unfortunately, it is also true of efforts to bring "clean" elections — publicly funded legislative campaigns — to New Jersey. We are strong proponents of this reform, but we fear that the pilot program being launched this fall is poorly designed, inherently unfair and likely to collapse of its own procedural weight.

Should it fail, the consequences will be dire: Reformers will be demoralized, defenders of the status quo will be re-energized and taxpayers will be stuck for the foreseeable future with a political system that's nothing short of a national embarrassment.

The Fair and Clean Elections pilot program is based on a bill passed Aug. 11 by the Democratic majority in the Legislature with no bipartisan consultation or input. Since then, Republicans have been blocked from altering FACE in ways that we believe would significantly enhance its chances for success.

Here are the major flaws in FACE, all of which are addressed in Assemblyman Corodemus' bill A-3649. This bill was introduced Jan. 10. The Democratic majority in the Assembly has refused to post it for a hearing or permit the bill to be released from committee.

We also feel strongly that FACE should appear as a ballot referendum this November, so all New Jersey voters can understand and have a voice in its implementation.

Even as it now stands, the intent of FACE is admirable. But good intentions will not solve New Jersey's campaign finance problems, arguably the most entrenched and corrupting in the country. We need a clean elections program that will inspire participation by candidates, confidence among voters and bipartisan progress toward true reform.

Steven J. Corodemus is a Republican Assembly member seeking re-election in the 11th District. Amy H. Handlin is a Republican Monmouth County freeholder seeking election to an Assembly seat in the 13th District.

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