Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Bowling for dollars?

As I often am about political campaigns, I was curious about where the Pettis-Leventhal campaign was getting their money, so I took a look at their filings at the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). ELEC makes all campaign finance reports available online at their website.

Anyway, what I found was interesting, to say the least ... of roughly $19,000 in cash and kind they had accumulated as of May 2 (the deadline for ELEC's 29-day pre-election report), over $11,000 (nearly 60%) was contributed by Fred Profeta and Ian Grodman's campaign fund from last year. In looking at the Profeta/Grodman ELEC reports from last year, one could reasonably conclude that the entire $11,000 actually comes from Fred Profeta alone (He gave his 2002 campaign $17,000).

Contributions to political candidates in New Jersey normally are limited to $2200 per candidate, so a contribution to, say, the Pettis-Leventhal campaign could be at most $4400, because the campaign committee is for two candidates, not one. Contributions from other campaign committees, like Dick Codey's or Joe DiVincenzo's, are limited to $7200 or less. There are a couple of loopholes in these contribution limits. First, candidates may contribute as much of their own money as they want to their own campaigns - hence Fred's $17,000. That's fine, although I am uncomfortable with the idea in general - it can make a campaign against a personally wealthy opponent difficult at best, ruinously expensive, and serves to limit the playing field to those with lots of available cash. Second, although political campaign committees are normally limited to $7200 in contributions to another campaign, there's no limit if the "contributing and recipient candidates are seeking nomination ... to the same offices within the same politicial subdivision of the State of New Jersey" (N.J.A.C. 19:25-11.3 and 11.1).

Through the loopholes and onto the TC?
Fred Profeta has driven a bulldozer right through those loopholes, in an attempt to get his hand-picked candidates elected - first, by giving himself much more money than he needed last year, and second by then turning around and giving that money to the Pettis-Leventhal campaign. He, in effect, bypassed the $4400 limitation he normally would have had. In other words, he's bankrolled most of the P-L campaign, all by himself.

But don't take my word for it - please look for yourselves, both at the reports and at the law. You can even look at the Ryan-DeLuca ELEC forms at the same time, if you're so inclined.

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