WEINBERG, WATSON COLEMAN, POU RENEW CALL FOR DISCLOSURES BY CENTER FOR A BETTER NEW JERSEY

TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou today sent a letter to the Legislature’s Republican leaders reiterating their call for the immediate disclosure of donors and expenses of an unregulated political action committee they formed to assist the GOP’s legislative redistricting activities.

The letters to Senator Thomas H Kean, Jr., and Assemblyman Alex DeCroce followed a press conference the Democratic lawmakers held last week. They said the group’s disclosures are even more important with a scheduled public hearing by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission tomorrow night in Newark.

“We take no comfort in Senator Kean’s statement that the Center for A Better New Jersey will ‘fully comply with all reporting and disclosure laws’ at some unknown point in the future – most likely after the redistricting process has concluded,” the lawmakers wrote. “People should not have to hope that their legislative districts are not drawn to appease outside political interests, they should expect it. In fact, it’s the least they should expect. Once again, we call upon you to immediately disclose the Center for A Better New Jersey’s directors, officers and agents; donors; and expenditures – and then disband it. The residents who attend tomorrow’s public hearing in Newark have a right to know who is financing this unregulated political action committee.

New Jersey Legislature
Feb 8, 2011
The Hon. Thomas H. Kean, Jr.
Minority Leader
New Jersey Senate
State House
Trenton, NJ 08625
The Hon. Alex DeCroce
Minority Leader
New Jersey General Assembly
State House
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Minority Leaders Kean and DeCroce,
As you are aware, last Wednesday we convened a State House press conference to call upon you
to immediately disclose and disband your “nonprofit” political action organization, the Center
for A Better New Jersey. We write this letter after reading your responses to media inquiries
following our event, and which, we believe, are wholly inadequate.
We take no comfort in Senator Kean’s statement that the Center for A Better New Jersey will
“fully comply with all reporting and disclosure laws” at some unknown point in the future – most
likely after the redistricting process has concluded. This information should be released
immediately, and before the Apportionment Commission holds its February 9 public hearing.
Like Reform Jersey Now, the Center for A Better New Jersey appears on its face to be a bold
attempt to make an end-run around state campaign finance and pay-to-play laws. It wasn’t until
Reform Jersey Now disbanded, and released its list of donors, that residents learned that it was
funded mainly by entities that had a direct interest in the policies being put forth by Governor
Christie and your caucuses, and included companies that held enormous state contracts – who
would have otherwise been banned from giving a dime under state pay-to-play laws.
While we would like to give you the benefit of the doubt that the Center for A Better New Jersey
was – as Sen. Kean stated to the press – “designed to allow for greater public participation in the
redistricting process,” until you release this organization’s full financials you will have to excuse
our skepticism.
Both of you operate your own personal campaign accounts and, by your positions within your
caucuses, the respective Senate and Assembly Republican leadership PACs. Contributors already
have ample opportunity to support your political goals to the maximum amount of $27,600
annually. This makes the Center for A Better New Jersey a third entity in which those who have
already maxed-out to both of your state accounts – or those who would be barred from donating
under state pay-to-play rules – may donate, and one which has no obligation to report either
where its funds come from, or where they are going.
In addition, we have come to learn that Assemblyman Jay Webber – the former state Republican
chairman and co-chair of the Apportionment Commission – was listed as the treasurer of a
Center for A Better New Jersey in its 2009 filings. The next filing deadline is not until May
2010, weeks after the Apportionment Commission will have competed its job. Transparency
would dictate that the public should know well in advance if he still holds this title while
simultaneously serving as the Commission co-chair.
Assemblyman Webber’s mere presence demonstrates that the Center for A Better New Jersey
and the Republican membership of the Apportionment Commission are one in the same.
New Jersey’s once-in-a-decade legislative redistricting process must remain above reproach and
suspicion that outside financial forces are wielding undue influence. People should not have to
hope that their legislative districts are not drawn to appease outside political interests, they
should expect it. In fact, it’s the least they should expect.
Once again, we call upon you to immediately disclose the Center for A Better New Jersey’s
directors, officers and agents; donors; and expenditures – and then disband it. The residents who
attend tomorrow’s public hearing in Newark have a right to know who is financing this
unregulated political action committee.
Sincerely,
Senator Loretta Weinberg Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman
Assemblywoman Nellie Pou”