Inside Ocean County Government

Opinion, Pay-to-play

This Isn’t Right: Hobbled State Campaign Finance Watchdog ELEC Cancels 10th Meeting in a Row

TRENTON – In another display of government dysfunction, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), the independent state agency that administers state campaign finance laws, has cancelled its meeting scheduled for January 17th, 2017, marking its 10th consecutive meeting to be cancelled since the spring of last year.

The continued failure of the state’s independent campaign finance monitor to hold public meetings should shock the conscience of voters and taxpayers throughout this state and is without recent past precedent.

From the ELEC website:

The governing body responsible for ensuring the financial integrity of our elections has been unable to hold a public meeting since April of 2016. Both Governor Christie’s failure to make a nomination until mid-December and the legislature’s failure to confirm that nominee have been blamed as the cause of the commission’s failure to hold public meetings.

New Jersey state law requires that the board have no more than two members of the same political party that serve on the four-member board. Additionally, no person who holds any public office or an office in any political party is eligible for appointment to the commission. The commissioners serve without compensation for varying term lengths as prescribed by statute.

Without at least two commissioners, the board is unable to have a quorum necessary to meet and act on official business. This deprives the commission the opportunity to formally adjudicate complaints alleging violations of The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act, N.J.S.A. 19:44A-1 et seq. The agency is responsible for enforcing that act by conducting an investigation, and if necessary, filing a formal complaint which is prosecuted before the board of commissioners, who will then take formal action on the complaint and may assess monetary (or other) penalties. But no final action can be taken if the board of ELEC can’t meet.

There exists a compelling public interest in ensuring that New Jersey’s campaign finance laws are enforced to the fullest extent possible to ensure the integrity of our elections (even if some of the penalties don’t have teeth) and that violations of campaign finance disclosure requirements are timely prosecuted and brought to the attention of the public. Right now, it is abundantly clear that the citizens of the State of New Jersey are getting anything but that.

While Governor Christie and Trenton politicians – who show no sign of kicking their addiction to taxpayer dollars – were quick to force things on the public like the much-hated gas tax and even consider superfluous expenditures like $300 million worth of not-neeed statehouse renovations, or even the disgrace that was the failed Christie book deal, the Christie-Sweeney-Prieto axis of state legislative / executive power has moved at a glacial pace on the issue of filling ELEC’s vacancies. This is to the detriment of the public and the rule of law, as each day that the issue of ELEC remains unsolved is another day that violations of campaign finance law can’t be prosecuted.

Perhaps the craven and self-serving career politicians, pay-to-play lawyers and other assorted swamp creatures of Trenton (We’re looking at you, Joe D.) would prefer to keep it that way, as ELEC’s dysfunction means that it’s nearly impossible to crack down on campaign finance violations for the time being.

In recent times, Governor Christie and certain members of the legislature have worked to dilute and weaken the ethics and campaign finance rules of this state to serve their own ends. Citizens can and must demand better of our elected officials or they will be able to keep foisting things like this on the people.

You know what they say: “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

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