A Common Sense Suggestion For Bergen County Republican Freeholders
Conservative New Jersey is pleased to present this contribution written by Anthony Rottino, a Republican candidate for Freeholder in Bergen County last year. He addresses the ill-advised passage of a Pay for Play ordinance by the Freeholders last year that will severely hamper the efforts of Republicans to compete in future local and county races.
Late last year the Bergen County Freeholders approved one of the most restrictive, and I believe, flawed, pay to play ordinances in the state. The reasons for this onerous law are at best circumspect. Certain members of our freeholder board bowed to pressure from the ultra liberal group Bergen Grassroots, a Democrat front group for Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
Some of the freeholder proponents of the ordinance point out that it was based on a Monmouth County ordinance.
Last month, HOWEVER– the Monmouth County Freeholder Board rescinded its pay-to-play ordinance because it was just unworkable. I suggest the Bergen County Freeholders do likewise. And I hope you will join in asking our freeholder to do correct this horrendous mistake that is disguised as reform.
The 10 page Bergen pay to play ordinance is overly broad, punitive, probably illegal and completely unenforceable. The freeholder board has failed to offer any plan to enforce the ordinance, or to tell us how much it would cost taxpayers to police their new rules. Without an enforcement mechanism, what is the value of the ordinance? Secondly, the ordinance makes it all but impossible for municipal organizations to raise money for local candidates
As a former candidate for county office, I supported sensible pay-to-play legislation that would fine tune the existing law to close loopholes in the county’s original ordinance created by Freeholder David Ganz that was soundly criticized by the Record editorial board.
I also argued for greater transparency in hiring county vendors, which I think could be easily accomplished by posting vendor donations on the internet for inspection by anyone who cares about such information.
However, the Bergen freeholders, caving in to liberal Democrat pressure groups that oppose the election of Republicans locally and nationally, went well beyond the basic spirit of pay-to-play transparency and created an onerous piece of legislation that makes it all but impossible or anyone other than the very wealthy to run for political office. That’s not good for democracy.
Moreover, virtually no credible evidence was supplied during the pay-to-play debate about the need for such an onerous regulation? Nor was there any evidence about how the ordinance would benefit taxpayers - if at all. We should not forget that officeholders who abuse the public trust by rewarding donors with unnecessary or inflated contracts can be removed from office at the very next election. We have been and will continue to be the party that supports integrity.
The inescapable truth that so called reformers fail to embrace is that campaigns need money to deliver their message to voters. Direct mail, television, radio and newspaper advertisements are not free and never will be. How are average middle class candidates suppose to pay for voter contact - especially if they are Republicans battling the Liberal media? Reform groups say the county should move to public financing of campaigns as an alternative to the current system, but I submit that taxpayer do not want to be taxed hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to pay for campaigns - nor should they be forced to do so.
As Republicans, we believe in free speech and the Supreme Court has ruled that donating to campaigns is a form of free speech, which is now being suppressed in Bergen County.
The objective of the county’s campaign finance reform should not be to choke off all donations and muzzle free speech of those who wish to financially support the candidates of their choice. Nor should it be to shut out working people from the political process. The goal should be to create reasonable, transparent rules that serve the taxpayers and the democratic process. Bergen County’s pay-to-play ordinance does neither.