TRENTON – “The 2007 New Jersey Fair and Clean Elections Pilot Project Act,” sponsored in the Senate by Senator Shirley K. Turner, was signed into law today in a ceremony in the Governor’s Office.
“Clean elections will strengthen our democracy by limiting the power of special interest money and will expand opportunities for women and minorities by breaking down the barriers created by the high cost of running for public offices,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “It will make campaigns about issues and voters and not about fundraisers and donors.”
Under the new law, formerly bill A-100/S-2438, candidates for the State Legislature in three selected districts will be eligible for public campaign financing by collecting $10 donations from voters. Candidates collecting 800 donations would receive at least $100,000 for their campaign.
“We’ve gotten to the tipping point – where we need to reject the idea that money equals power in Trenton. We’ve gotten to the point where decisive action is needed to restore the people’s voice in elected Government,” said Senator Turner.
The bill outlines the process by which candidates in the selected districts can be certified as “clean elections” candidates. Each candidate is allowed to raise up to$10,000 in seed money, with all donations coming from individuals in amounts of $500 or less. Candidates would then be required to collect only donations of $10.
Upon collecting 400 donations, candidates would receive $50,000 for campaign expenditures. Collecting 800 donations would earn them the full $100,000 in clean elections funds.
Certified candidates seeking election from a split district would be provided with money up to a maximum of the average amount of money expended by all candidates for legislative office in that district in the two immediately preceding general elections for those offices.
Senator Turner said, “Clean elections are not Republican or Democratic issues, but rather issues for everyone who cares about the honesty and transparency of our democracy. This is a bipartisan effort that has seen a great deal of support from the people of New Jersey.”
Senator Turner noted that the program in its entirety has received broad support from groups as diverse as the League of Women Voters, the NJ Conference of NAACP Branches, NJ Citizen Action, the NJ Chamber of Commerce, the NJ Tenants Association and the NJ Lutheran Office of Government Ministry.
Under the new law, three districts will be selected – the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker would select one legislative district, the Senate Minority Leader and the Assembly Minority Leader will select another district, and all four legislative leaders together will select a third district no later than April 9, 2007. If the districts have not been selected by April 11, 2007, a five-member citizens’ committee will select the districts by April 16, 2007.
The law also appropriates $7.675 million from the General Fund to fund the program. ELEC will receive $600,000 to effectuate its public information efforts, $75,000 for voter’s guide requirements, $250,000 to fund administrative expenses and $6,750,000 to provide campaign funds.