New Jersey Office of Legislative Services: "Rescue Funds" Unconstitutional
The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services (OLS) issued an opinion Tuesday that strikes a blow to efforts to expand the state’s system of publicly-financed elections, the Gannett State Bureau reported this morning.
The OLS opinion found that so-called "rescue funds" are unconstitutional in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling that said "leveling electoral opportunities" is an insufficient justification with which to impose campaign finance laws.
"Rescue funds" are supplemental money given to candidates who are participating in the government-financing program, if they are faced with non-participating opponents or spending by outside groups that exceed the initial government grant.
"Taxpayer-financed political campaigns become much less attractive if the rescue fund provisions are removed," said Mike Schrimpf, communications director at the non-partisan Center for Competitive Politics. "The OLS opinion recognizes that certain provisions in taxpayer-financed campaign programs undermine and penalize core political speech."
The OLS opinion said that rescue funds "would deter freedom of expression by a non-participating candidate or a group making an independent expenditure without sufficient justification because rescue money does not address the risk of actual or perceived corruption."
"One has to wonder if this ruling does not kill the effort to take taxpayer-financed campaigns statewide," Schrimpf concluded.
The Center for Competitive Politics has produced numerous studies about the impact of taxpayer-financed elections in New Jersey and other states. Those studies are available by clicking on the hyperlinks below: