NorthJersey.com

Legislators Raise 'Clean' Cash

The Record (NorthJersey.com) — Saturday, August 18, 2007

By OSHRAT CARMIEL
STAFF WRITER

After weeks of soliciting money from friends and neighbors, and even flagging down pedestrians for cash, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg and her incumbent running mates in District 37 have passed the first threshold to qualify for experimental "clean elections" funding.

The three Democratic legislators, which include Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, have each collected $4,000 – in $10 increments from 400 people in their 12-town district.

"I must have circled the swimming pool so many times," Weinberg said, describing the hunt for grass-roots cash in a Teaneck condo complex.

All three Democrats reached the 400 contributor mark by the state program's first deadline of Aug. 15, which means they will be designated as "Clean Elections candidates" on the November ballot and will be able to submit a 250-word statement accompanying their name.

They also will each get $50,000 in state financing for their campaign, with the possibility of $50,000 more.

Their GOP opponents – state Senate candidate Clara Nibot and Assembly candidates Frank Cifarelli and Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz – did not gather the requisite 400 contributions by the deadline.

Though they will not be designated as Clean Elections candidate on the ballot, they still have until Sept. 30 to qualify for public funding under the program, and they are continuing to gather $10 donations.

Nibot, who has so far received $10 contributions from 162 people, state records show, said she plans to pass the 400 threshold once voters return from vacation and start paying attention to the fall elections.

"We are very aggressive now," she said. "We're halfway there."

She had several hurdles to overcome because she has never run for public office and the experimental campaign funding program is limited to three districts.

"How would be your reaction if I knock on your door and I say 'I'm running for election can you give me 10 dollars?' " asked Nibot of Bergenfield.

Initiated by the state Legislature, the Fair and Clean Elections Project is an experiment designed to curb special-interest cash in legislative races.

It does so by promising public funding for candidates who eschew contributions from political action committees and corporations, and limit their fund raising to $10 donations from people who live in their district.

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