Middlesex County PACs Update

Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Peter Barnes is responding to the controversy over the Middlesex County PACs that are circumventing the State’s pay to pay laws by ranting that Governor Christie is doing the same thing, according to a story at Politickernj that also takes credit for breaking the PACs story last month, even though Harold V. Kane broke the story here at MMM last September.

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.

Posted: May 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Andrew Cuomo, Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, Chris Christie | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Turning up the heat on Middlesex County pay to play scandal

Politickernj writers Darryl Isherwood and Max Pizarro posted an in depth piece yesterday afternoon that exposes an incestuous web of influence driving planning, zoning and development approvals before the Middlesex County Freeholder Board and several municipal planning boards in the county.  

State Senator Bob Smith of Piscataway is the leader of the PACs that fund the campaigns of the Freeholders and municipal officials who approve the applications.  The applicants are donors to the PACs.  Smith is the applicants’ attorney.

It’s all legal.  And no one would know about it if not for Harold Kane of Monroe Township painstakingly examining thousands of pages of ELEC reports to find out where all the Middlesex Democratic money was coming from and the good journalists at Politickernj and The Star Ledger following the money.

Smith, the Senator working the system, and Peter Barnes, the Assemblyman and Middlesex County Democratic Chairman who’s candidates benefit from the system, know the solution to this “craziness.”   Barnes said that “any impetus to close the hole lies with the legislature.”  Smith said, “There is a solution to the craziness we have now and that is publicly financed elections – or complete transparency. “In New Jersey, we have nothing but chaos. The state needs one set standard across the state.”

Where is their legislation?   Smith and Barnes are both powerful members of the legislature.  They obviously know how the work the system.  They know how to fix it. 

Sponsor the legislation gentlemen.  Publicly financed elections won’t work.  Complete transparency will.

Here’s a campaign finance system that would be transparent:

1) Remove all limits on campaign contributions.

2) Require that all candidates and campaigns disclose all contributions of any amount on a dedicated website within 24 hours of receipt.

3) Competing campaigns, good citizens like Kane, and good journalist will examine the donations and expose influence.  Voters will decide if the influence is acceptable of not.

Correction: Peter Barnes, Jr, the Middlesex Democratic Chairman is no longer in the legislature.  His son, Peter III is an Assemblyman.

Now there are two Barnes and a Smith who can advocate for legislation that creates complete transparency.

Posted: April 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, ELEC, Middlesex County Democrats, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

5.7% turnout for school board elections

Marlboro and Neptune Township held school board elections yesterday.   Of the 45,035 registered voters in the the two townships, 2,618 voted.

By far most of those voters were from Marlboro, where over 2000 people came out.  In Neptune, less than 600 of aproximately 16,000 registered voters came out.

As of February 18, there was 24,926 registered voters in Marlboro and 15,865 in Neptune Township, according to Labels and Lists.  The county website says there were 45, 035 eligible voters in yesterday’s election.  Where those 4,244 new voters came from since February could be the subject of a future column.  In the meantime GOP leaders should take note that someone seems to be having a voter registration drive in Democratic towns.

For now I’d like to speculate about why there was a close to normal 10% turnout in Marlboro while only 3% turned out in Neptune.

One obvious reason could be competition.  In Marlboro, there were 7 candidates for 3 seats on the school board.  In Neptune, the 3 seats were not contested.

A not so obvious reason could be campaign spending.  In Marlboro one of the candidates, Bonniesue Rosenwald, mailed out a professionally produced post card late last week which included an endorsement from Mayor Jon Hornick.  Rosenwald, an incumbent, squeaked out a third place finish by 13 votes to retain her seat.

Some in Marlboro were upset that Rosenwald and Hornick politicised a school board election.  I say politicisation increases participation.

With the recent and perennial hubbub about campaign spending and pay to play, few of the critics of the pay to play/PAC/wheeling system are offering alternatives.  No one is talking about the public service campaign spending provides.

If not for campaign signs littering our roadways and lawns and mail boxes filled with glossy advertisements  few people would know when to interrupt their routines to vote.

With the arguable exception of presidential and gubernatorial elections, the media, local and national, does a horrible job of covering campaigns.  The media looks as electioneering as a revenue source,  not a story to be covered as if democracy depends upon it.

Current campaign finance laws thwart participation by limiting contributions and making the process more complicated.  The process is so complicated that only the most motivated and self interested contribute.  Recently, pundits at The Star Ledger, The Asbury Park Press and even the usually smarter than that InTheLobby criticised the John Wisniewski/Middlesex County PAC practices for violating the spirit of campaign finance laws.   Hogwash.  The complex system that reduces transparency is the spirit of our campaign finance laws.

If our leaders really want to reform the system, rather than give lip service to ethics while voting for a bill with “loopholes” intentionally written in, the would create a simple system with full and immediate disclosure required.

Posted: April 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, Elections, Pay-to-play | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »