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Panel Backs State's "Clean Elections" Extension

Home News Tribune — Tuesday, January 30, 2007

By GREGORY J. VOLPE
GANNETT STATE BUREAU

TRENTON — With the deadline fast approaching for political leaders to select the three legislative districts that will participate in this year's "clean elections" program, legislation authorizing the 2007 installment of the publicly funded election experiment was approved Monday by the Senate State Government Committee.

"We're racing the clock," said sponsor Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, who expects the measure to be approved by the Senate Budget Committee in mid-February and the full Senate by the end of February. It has already been approved by the Assembly and would need a quick signature from Gov. Jon S. Corzine so legislative leaders can select the three districts – a safe district for each party and one split district – by March 9.

Public financing, in which candidates forgo traditional special-interest donations, was tried in two legislative districts in 2005. But only one of five pairs of candidates who had to raise a number of nominal contributions to qualify for public funding was able to meet the threshold, prompting lawmakers to revamp the rules.

The 2007 proposal would lower the number of qualifying contributions from 1,500 to 800. Donations would be $10 instead of a mix of $30 and $5. The bill would also allow "partially clean' candidates, as long as they get 400 donations.

Candidates certified "clean' this year would be eligible for up to $100,000 in public financing.

Copyright 2007 Home News Tribune