In 2002 the citizens of New Jersey were preparing to choose a US Senator for a six year term in the November election. The candidates were selected, via the primary system, to be Democrat incumbent Robert Torricelli and Republican Douglas Forrester. As the election wound toward November the Democrats found that they had several ethics issues with Mr. Torricelli and his reelection was far from assured. Mr. Torricelli, following President Truman’s dictum “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen”, proceeded to, on September 30 withdraw his candidacy. The Republicans began their victory dance as Mr. Forrester was now unopposed and the Democrats would be prevented from replacing Mr. Torricelli because of the time constraints of the New Jersey Constitution.
The State of New Jersey is doing its utmost to fight off
the ravages of Covid-19. Most of the efforts are being done voluntarily (social
distancing) but other efforts are being done at the direction of the governor.
Governor Philip Murphy, by edict, has closed most of the smaller retail
establishments in the state. It’s obvious that with fixed costs and no revenue
many of these establishments will not reopen. Murphy’s edicts “that you will
close” do not seem to have any weight in law. The proprietors close because of
fear of the local police or county sheriff paying them a visit. Using the
threat of arrest, prosecution, and possibly, incarceration Murphy was wildly
successful in getting the “little people” to toe his line.
Did President Donald Trump inadvertently give the New Jersey Republicans a gift horse? It is no secret that the cap of $10,000 on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) will hit many Garden State residents hard. Many residents of the Hudson County Gold Coast are paying $20,000 to $30,000 in property taxes plus New Jersey income and sales taxes, and New York City and state income taxes. These residents are used to taking the full SALT deduction from their federal taxes and often receive a tax refund from the Treasury. Now there is a high probability that these people will be sending a check to the Treasury instead of receiving one. Some will blame the president for the additional tax liability, but the national tax laws have to be applied equally. Where the changes hurt New Jersey they actually help Texas since Texas has much lower property taxes and no state income tax. So why is this a gift horse?
Someone should tell Barnes, and Politickernj’s Darryl Isherwood, that Democratic NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is employing the exact same fund raising technique to promote his agenda in New York that Christie is using in New Jersey.
All of this ranting about PACs and 501(c)4’s circumventing the pay to pay laws is silly. The campaign finance system is working exactly the way it was designed to work. It decreases transparency and gives politicians something to shout at each other about while the public tunes out to pay attention to something more entertaining. That’s what the system was designed to do!
Note to Isherwood: The New York Times broke the story about Cuomo’s use of a 501(c)4.
NJ ELEC needs to improve its service to the citizens of New Jersey
By Harold V. Kane
Harold V. Kane
The print and electronic media have, since last September, shone a spotlight on the Middlesex County Democrats fundraising activities. The Democrats established a number of Political Action Committees designed to subvert the 2006 changes to the NJ election finance laws. The question arises-why did they think that they could get away with it, when all contributions are reported to the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission. One answer could be because of a flaw in the ELEC computer program. The ELEC program is, at best, difficult to use. However once persons making queries understands how the programs work, then they also determine that all contributions and expenditures are there, somewhere. Even the administrators/treasurers for the Democrat PACs dutifully complied with the reporting requirements.
The ELEC reporting program offers a category of “Simple Search by Contributor”. When a user clicks on this category a page opens that states: “The Simple Search will search the campaign finance database for a contributor to campaigns, Political Party Committees, Legislative Leadership Committees and Political Action Committees.” Except that it doesn’t!
Like Kane, Politikernj and The Star Ledger framed their articles as if the PACs set up to funnel campaign donations from engineers, lawyers and their firms to political campaigns were doing something scandalous. Each of the articles acknowledges that the contributions are legal, yet they say that the donors “skirt” or “cloud” the law or that the contributors are “buying” the candidates that ultimately benefit from the contributions.
The real scandal is that campaign finance laws at every level of government, federal, state, county and local, that are ostensibly designed to eliminate the influence of money in our political system and to increase transparency actually have the opposite effect, by design.
Money is like air and water. Set up a structure to restrict it and money, like air and water, will find a crack in the structure to get to where it wants to go. With enough pressure the structure breaks. Fix or reform the structure and the cycle repeats itself.
Our campaign finance laws decrease transparency in the process. Kane and the reporters from Politickernj and The Star Ledger spent many unproductive hours combing through ELEC reports of campaigns and PACS to connect the dots. Not many people have the time or resources to make that effort. Kane, Politickernj and The Star Ledger reporters did us all a service by connecting those dots. It is appropriate for the public to know who is financing the campaigns of their candidates for public office.
Restricting the amount of money that a person or entity can contribute to a campaign is inappropriate. Such restrictions are impediments to free speech and push otherwise well meaning people out of the political process or into breaking ill conceived and complex laws. Such restrictions don’t and won’t keep “bad money” out of the process.
The only way to increase transparency in the process is to require immediate disclosure of campaign contributions. Removing the limits that candidates and campaigns can accept would reduce the utility of PAC, Super PACs, etc.
Creating a simple system of full disclosure would increase participation in the political process. It would increase competition among government contractors and professionals. It would make the entire process more democratic, which is probably why we won’t see such a simple system anytime soon, if ever.
It is no secret in Middlesex County that the Middlesex County Democrat Organization never seems to have problems raising money for political campaigns. What is strange is who some of the donors are. Did you ever hear of Citizens for a Green Environment, Women for Good Government, or the Coalition for Government Efficiency. These three groups are political action committees that support Democrats exclusively. One has to ask where their funds come from Are tree huggers, feminists, and efficiency experts so interested in electoral activity that they are willing to donate huge sums to their respective groups. The answer is of course NOT!
These three groups are among 12(list below) that the Democrats established for scrutiny-avoidance so that large sums of money could be contributed but not readily made available for review. The key to this type of operation is the difference in the contribution level that may be given to an individual candidate versus to PAC. The maximum that a single person or organization can make to candidate’s committee is $2,600 per election. However, the maximum that can be made to a PAC is $7,200 per election. If a donor wants to contribute large sums to a candidate or series of candidates, the easiest way is to contribute to PACs and let the PACs distribute the money. This is what happens in Middlesex County.
Since January of 2008 up to August of 2011, the PACs controlled by the Middlesex County Democrats have accepted $1,715,264 from various contributors with $621,000 (36%) coming from the five principals ( David Samuel, John Stefani, Jay Cornell, Michael McClelland, and Gregory Valesi) of CME Associates of Sayreville. This does not include the $250,000 that the CME principals contributed to various candidate committees. In total the CME principals contributed $854,550 to the Democrats and a paltry $17,550 to the Republicans for a total of $872,100 during this 3.5 year period.
Obviously CME was not alone. Second on the donor hit parade was T&M Associates of Middletown, third was the Gartland Family of Companies of Baltimore and fourth was Federal Business Centers of Edison. The citizens of Middlesex County have gotten a partial reprieve from these clandestine activities. Francis Gartland, the scion of the Gartland family of companies, has pled guilty to bribing a public official in Ocean County. This should keep the Gartland check book closed, at least for a while.
You must be wondering how this massive scrutiny-avoidance can happen. The Democrats are exploiting a fault in the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission computer system. The fault precludes a standard name query from extracting contributor names that gave to PACs. The information is available, but is not overly easy to find.