The time for campaign finance reform is now

Cross Posted on Blue Jersey
By Mark Alexander

Last week The Record reported that big time special interest groups with business regulated in Trenton are skirting campaign finance laws in New Jersey. These lawyers, engineers, and others with State contracts and interests donated over $700,000 in contributions to the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA). Conveniently for those donating, the RGA’s main focus this year will be reelecting Governor Christie. It cannot be a coincidence that – among other things – New Jersey pulled out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) after the Koch Brothers donated large sums to the RGA to help elect Governor Christie in 2009. The quid pro quo is clear.

Now is the time to fix our broken campaign finance system.

Jeff Brindle, executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), stated in the article that right now the RGA doesn’t fall under ELEC’s jurisdiction. Well, lets change that. It is one of the many things we need to do to give ELEC more tools to regulate how the money flows in political campaigns in our State. If you’ve tried to use the ELEC website, you probably know from experience that it is not a user-friendly site. The technology is dated, the website is hard to navigate, and information is not easily searchable. Disclosure and transparency need to be a priority for ELEC, and they need more resources to execute this important function.

As a Constitutional Law Professor, I know the challenges we face in regulating money in politics. Citizen’s United opened a Pandora’s box of problems that need to be addressed. Our State Legislature can take these important steps to ensure that special interest groups looking to cash-in on lucrative State contracts do not hijack our electoral system. We also need to build off the 2005 Clean Elections’ pilot program and empower normal folks to qualify for matching public funds if they hit certain benchmarks. Giving candidates an incentive to collect small dollar donations – as opposed to special interest money from Trenton lobbyists – will make our democracy healthier and open opportunities for challengers to be more competitive. Our State Legislature needs to do its part to stop the influence of moneyed interests, and empower normal folks on Election Day.