Free Speech Under Fire in New Jersey Part Deux

Author: Rory B. Bellows

An assembly panel approved a bill that would publicly fund primary and general elections in up to 8 districts next year.

New Jersey ran a so-called clean elections pilot program in the 2007 election cycle. Anyone who cares about free speech, liberty and the democratic process should be outraged by this measure. While the idea of “clean” elections sounds good, whenever something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Clean elections are an attempt to free legislators from the temptation of corruption by having them raise a small amount of money through small contributions. The the taxpayers enter the party and fund their campaigns. Supposedly this will cut the cord between legislators and big dollar campaign contibutors and the public officials will no longer feel beholden to “special” interests.

This is a farce and one that guts our very right to freedom of and political expression. In the clean election pilot program, candidates had to raise $400 in $10 contributions. Who is the government to tell me I can only exercise my right to political speech in the amount of $10? This is the government rationing speech.

The idea of publicly funded campaigns has always been one of the goals of the do-gooders. It’s just a way to strip freedom from a population. If you don’t have the freedom to opt out of the democratic process, then you live in a democracy without liberty. The choice should be mine as to whose campaign I want to support. Why should I be taxed and have that money go and fund a Democratic candidate or even a Republican candidate I may not agree with?

Finally, so-called clean elections are just a way for incumbents to keep themselves in power. When McConnel v. the FEC was before the Supreme Court, and the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold Campaing Finance Reform Law was being decided, the FEC was forced to admit that contribution limit was set below the least amount of money needed to unseat an incumbent in the previous election cycle. The less money there is available to challengers, who lack incumbents’ name recognition, the more incumbents will win re-election.

So cheers to you State Assembly, you gave us a less free and less democratic New Jersey.


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