ASBURY PARK PRESS: ‘COME CLEAN ON DONORS’

The Asbury Park Press published the following Wednesday on Democrats urging Republicans to disclose the donors and expenses of their secretive redistricting group:

http://www.app.com/article/20110208/NJOPINION01/102090329/Come-clean-donors

Come clean on donors
State Democratic lawmakers are rightly calling on Republicans to release the names of people who donated to a private group created to bankroll GOP efforts to draw new state election districts.
The new political maps will help determine how competitive the state’s legislative districts will be. There’s no reason the process should be exempt from hardball politics. But the battle should be fought with both parties being open and above board. Gov. Chris Christie needs to take off his partisan blinders and lead the charge to demand that this group, and any similar groups, release the names of their donors.
New Jersey has committed $1.5 million to pay for the redistricting efforts, but Republicans have created their own group — The Center for a Better New Jersey — which, as a nonprofit 501(c)4 group, does not have to disclose its donors or expenses.
We’ve been there before. The Center For a Better New Jersey is but the latest incarnation of another 501(c)4, Reform Jersey Now. That group organized outside of campaign-finance rules to support Gov. Chris Christie’s policy agenda. It raised nearly $624,000 before it shut down, releasing donor records only days before it disbanded at the end of 2010. Organized as it was under Internal Revenue Service rules, rather than campaign-finance law, the group was able to sidestep disclosure laws, such as those restricting “pay-to-play” donations from government contractors. But there are ethical obligations here.
New Jersey’s pay-to-play laws need to be strengthened. One of candidate Christie’s “88 ways to fix New Jersey” called for exactly that, particularly when it came to the unions. At the very least, Christie has been complicit in these violations of the spirit of campaign finance laws, and should use the bully pulpit and the power of his office to push for nonpartisan changes for groups like The Center For a Better New Jersey.