The Sparta Independent

Clean Campaigns Come To District

The Sparta Independent — Tuesday, August 2, 2007

SPARTA — New Jersey's 24th Senate and Assembly district is one of three pilot "clean election" districts in this year's general election.

Giving the election back to the voters is how Danzey Burnham, president of the state League of Women Voters explained the program.

The N.J. Fair and Clean Election Pilot Project follows on the heels of a similar, but smaller pilot project run in 2005. It prohibits largo donations to individual politicians and any donations froiii lobbyists.

The basics are simple, according to the League's brochure. Candidates may choose to declare themselves "fair and clean." If they do, they must collect between 400 and 800 contributions of $10 each from voters who are registered in their district by Sept. 30. They must also refuse to accept contributions from other sources. Once they qualify, they must spend only their Clean Election money. Besides the contributions they collect, the state will give them a $50,000 grant.

The details are more complicated, Burnham noted. Donations may be made by cash, check, money order, credit or debit card. Cash donations must be accompanied by a form including the donors name and address so his or her voting status can be checked. Cash donations were not allowed during the 2005 pilot program and many of its organizers felt that was a mistake.

Once the candidate receives $400 in donations, the donor list is scrutinized by the N.J. Election Law Commission to make sure each donor meets the requirements.

The candidate may continue to seek funds until 800 people have contributed.

When the state Legislature approved the pilot program, it authorized one heavily Democratic district, one heavily Republican district and one mixed district be chosen. Party leaders chose their own district, meaning State Senator Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County picked the 24th district.

The 24th district includes all of Sussex County, the Morris County municipalities of Chester Borough and Township, Mount Olive Township, Netcong and Washington Township, as well as Califon and Tewksbury Township in Hunterdon County.

All six major party candidates for Senate and Assembly chose to participate and Please turn to page 34 qualify. They are Democrats Edwin Selby, running for Senate, Patrick Walsh and Toni D. Zimmer, running for Assembly, and Republicans Steven V. Oroho for Senate, and Gary R. Chuisano and incumbent Alison Littell McHose for Assembly.

Should a "non-clean" candidate declare, the program allows the state to provide "rescue" money for the clean candidate, Burnham said.

The League endorses clean candidacies because it "puts the voters in charge," she said. "Candidates can focus on talking to voters, not on raising money." The pilot program calls for two in-district debates moderated by the League.

Supporters, such as New Jersey Citizen Action, believe the program will bring in candidates who are not supported by wealthy backers.

Besides the League, Citizen Action, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University, labor unions, the State Federation of Woman's Clubs and a number of faith-based charities also endorsed the project.

Copyright 2007 Straus Newspapers

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