New Jersey legislators hope that a new law providing public financing for their own campaigns will help clean up the corruption that is rife in their state. Their plan to provide up to $150,000 to legislative candidates was modeled on laws in Arizona and Maine ["That Clean-All- Over Feeling," July 2002].
Those two states have made public money available to state candidates since 2000. New Jersey's plan is more modest. Candidates will receive money in only two legislative districts next year and in four districts in 2007. If all goes well, a commission will determine whether it's worth expanding the program throughout the state.
Changing the nature of fundraising is a significant step for New Jersey. Even before the scandal that led Governor James McGreevey to announce his resignation this August, polls indicated that about 80 percent of its residents believed that corruption is a regular part of how the state does business.
"In many ways, although Maine and New Jersey could not be more different, they were very helpful" in providing a model, says Joseph Roberts, majority leader of the New Jersey Assembly and sponsor of the bill. "It's really lessened the dependence elected officials have on those people who are campaign contributors and allows them to spend more time talking to citizens."