Asbury Park Press

Clean Elections

Funding threshold proves support

Asbury Park Press — Friday, August 26, 2005

As The Asbury Park Press noted in its Aug. 21 editorial "Cut the red tape for clean election," New Jersey's Clean Elections program will certainly need to be tweaked and refined before it is extended to other legislative districts in future elections.

The pressing priority is to help the Democrats and Republicans who are trying to qualify for this program and make clean elections a success this election year.

"Clean elections" are publicly financed legislative campaigns. The idea behind clean elections is to take special-interest money out of the political process so that our legislators do not feel beholden to large contributors or spend most of their time trying to raise special-interest money.

Clean elections have been successful in Maine and Arizona, which is why New Jersey largely modeled its program upon the systems established in those two states. We did not, however, create a carbon copy of the eligibility standards in those two states – and with sound reasons.

Right now, New Jersey clean elections candidates must amass 1,000 donations of $5 and 500 donations of $30 to be eligible for public financing. These thresholds are higher than what is in place in Maine and Arizona, but they should be achievable.

It would be difficult for New Jersey legislators to justify making the significant investment in public dollars that we made in support of clean elections, even on a trial basis, without ensuring that candidates work hard (perhaps harder than they've ever worked before) to qualify for public financing.

Receiving large sums of taxpayer money to run a campaign should not be an exercise in convenience. It should be earned by the candidates and their supporters through grass-roots work. Only then will the public have faith that its money is not being wasted by fringe or non-serious candidates who run for office.

The Asbury Park Press deserves a measure of praise for providing an important public service by informing its readers in the 13th Legislative District about the process for making contributions to the respective Assembly campaigns.

Joseph J. Roberts Jr.

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