Sarlo And Weinberg Seek To Restrain Political Opportunists

TRENTON – Senators Paul A. Sarlo an Loretta Weinberg today introduced legislation designed to prevent political opportunists from accepting State matching funds for one election and then using the money to promote themselves for another elective office.

“It’s despicable that some candidates are all too willing to rip off a good system for their own selfish motives,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic.

“It’s no wonder there’s such a high degree of public cynicism about elected officials when a good program like public financing of gubernatorial campaigns is compromised,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen.

The Sarlo-Weinberg proposal would forbid gubernatorial candidates who accept State matching funds from running for any elective office in New Jersey for the following two years.

The two State senators said they were spurred to sponsor their bill after Republican Todd Caliguire, ostensibly running for Governor in the 2005 GOP primary, accepted more than $500,000 in State matching funds and then spent the lion’s share of that money promoting himself in Bergen County as a prelude to his run this year for Bergen County Executive.

“Initially, State observers were amazed that Mr. Caliguire conducted a virtual one-county campaign for Governor when he focused nearly all of his media advertising in the Bergen County market,” said Senator Sarlo. “But after he finished dead last in the 7-member GOP primary with only a trace amount of votes, it became clear that Mr. Caliguire was driven by another motive.”

Senator Weinberg said the public financing of gubernatorial campaigns began nearly 30 years ago to help level the playing field for candidates of limited means competing against wealthy candidates.

“Ultimately, it becomes false advertising, a legal deception and a misuse of taxpayers’ money to accept public financing for a gubernatorial campaign as a ruse for self promotion for an upcoming local campaign,” Senator Weinberg said. “In the climate of our efforts to foster ‘Clean Elections’ on the legislative level, this bill makes senses because it will increase accountability for the expenditure of public dollars.”

Under the current State election law, Caliguire was able to parlay a total of nearly $800,000 for promoting himself in Bergen County just a year prior to seeking the office of Bergen County Executive. At the time of the gubernatorial primary, Caliguire claimed he was only interested in running for Governor. However, Republican leaders in nearby Passaic and Morris counties said later they were stunned that Caliguire never sought their support for his gubernatorial bid.