State ethics reform has strong foes

Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s 2009 reelection hopes may rest on his ability to deliver on campaign promises of ethics reform, but it appears that legislation fulfilling those promises has some significant foes in the New Jersey legislature.

Senate President Dick Codey, D-Essex, and Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union – both extremely powerful legislators – have come out against key pieces of the governor’s ethics reform package.  The governor seeks to rein in pay-to-play and wheeling, which are two campaign finance practices that continue to contribute to the toxic nature of state politics and the corrupting power of special interests in government.

Sen. Lesniak told a reporter from Millenium Radio and NJ 101.5 FM that “there is a balancing act” in campaign finances reform.  He seemed to be saying that freely moving around campaign funds from county organization to county organization to circumvent campaign finance law, as in wheeling, and handing out governments contracts to firms that donate to campaigns instead of the lowest responsible bidder, as in pay-to-play, are somehow meant to protect candidates with moderate funding from rich candidates like Gov. Corzine.

It’s true that Gov. Corzine basically spent millions to get elected to the U.S. Senate and the governor’s office, but somehow linking the former Goldman Sachs CEO’s campaign decisions to spend massive amounts of cash to a need for more traditionally-funded candidates to raise money through pay-to-play and wheeling seems to be quite a stretch. 

It’s revolting to hear one of the state’s most powerful legislators defend them, because these practices do little more than corrupt the political system while entrenching politicians from both parties in certain offices, further restricting the democratic process.  Reducing and eventually eliminating these disgusting perversions of democracy should be a priority for state politicians, as Gov. Corzine seems to understand. 

Unfortunately for the voting public, those who are not politically connected, and all of us who believe in democracy, it looks like the powerful in the governor’s own party are willing to throw their own top state politician and what could be his most important set of campaign promises under the bus for the sake of saving pay-to-play and wheeling.

Frankly, that’s disgusting.

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