This is a picture of Joshua Leinsdorf, Indpendent Candidate for Governor of New Jersey, standing on the Henry Hudson Trail in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.  Josh spent 31 years turning this abandoned railroad right of way into a bike path.  It was dedicated on Earth Day, 2009.


Why did it take so long?  Because it was opposed by the Republicans, the Democrats and all the neighbors.  This proves that an honest candidate who takes consistent positions on issues can get things done.


The Fundamental Problem is that the Elections are Rigged in Favor of the Republicans and Democrats


            New Jersey has public financing of gubernatorial elections.  The state will match campaign contributions, on a 2 to 1 basis, up to a certain limit.


            Governor Jon Corzine, the multimillionaire former chairman of Goldman Sachs, is eschewing public financing.  In the June 2nd primary, the turnout was 10%.  Corzine got 148,847 votes which is about 13% of the registered Democrats.  Governor Corzine did not debate his three opponents, who got zero newspaper or media coverage of any kind, and had zero campaign funds but still received 44,319 ballots or 4% of the registered Democrats.  These numbers were so bad that the newspapers declined to print them in the article on the primary.


            In the Republican Primary it was a three way race between former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, Mayor Steve Lonegan, and Assemblyman Richard Merkt.  The New Jersey public financing law, rather than enabling poorly funded candidates to compete with wealthy ones, does the exact opposite.  It provides public funding ONLY to candidates that can raise $300,000.  In other words, public financing, while limiting campaign spending and contributions, essentially provides a subsidy to the people who already fund political campaigns.


            As a result, in the recent primary, Christopher Christie’s 181,154 votes cost the taxpayers $17.11 a vote in campaign matching funds, while Steve Lonegan’s 139,066 votes cost the treasury (of a state that is laying off workers and forcing others onto involuntary furloughs) $14.25 a vote.  Richard Merkt’s 9,027 votes cost nothing because Merkt was unable to raise the initial $300,000 that qualifies a candidate for matching funds.  New Jersey has created, in effect, a financial qualification for Governor.


            In order to receive matching funds, a candidate must agree to abide by the spending limits and agree to participate in mandated debates.  Under the New Jersey public financing system, any candidate that does not qualify for matching funds, or is unable to raise $340,000 by September 1, is excluded from the debates.  Public financing as used in New Jersey is used to discriminate AGAINST candidates with no money.  Unless a candidate can raise $340,000 by September 1, he or she is not allowed to participate in the debates mandated by the expenditure of millions of dollars of tax money.  Is it any wonder New Jersey is broke?


            In the old days, the traditional starting date for Democratic campaigns was Labor Day.  This shows that most people do not start paying serious attention to politics until the summer is over.  The New Jersey campaign public financing law requires that the $340,000 be raised by September 1, before voters have started to pay attention to the race.  The public financing law is written to guarantee that no candidate other than a Republican and Democrat with huge permanent fundraising organizations will be allowed to compete in the gubernatorial race.  By making money a qualification, and then writing the rules to make it practically impossible for any candidate other than a Democrat or Republican to raise the requisite funds in the time allotted, it keeps the Governor’s mansion closed to independents.  In the thirty-two years since public financing of Governor’s races was introduced in 1977, only one independent candidate, Libertarian Murray Sabrin, has managed to raise the necessary funds to be included in the debate. 


Why Leinsdorf is a better choice than Corzine and Christie


            Josh spent nine years on the Princeton Regional School Board, two as Finance Committee chairman.  He has accomplished more than just building a bike path.  He helped raise standards for high school graduation from a ninth to an eleventh grade standard (although he was fighting for a twelfth grade standard).  He supports a sidewalk building program, installation of benches and bus shelters, and selling New Jersey Transit to private bus companies so that New Jersey can have a first class pubic transit system.  He has a full program covering taxes, education, the environment, the role of the courts and public corruption.


            Corzine and Christie, in their roles as public officials, have cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  Corzine “invested” half a billion dollars of state pension funds in hedge funds.  No one has ever claimed hedge funds were investment grade investments.  As the market deteriorated and the hedge fund made margin calls, the pension fund anted up three payments of $49.5 million dollars to prevent the position from being liquidated.  By coincidence, $50 million is the threshold that requires public disclosure and approval of the board.  So, the hundreds of millions of dollars Corzine flushed down the drain to enrich his buddies in the hedge fund industry on Wall Street hits every taxpayer in New Jersey.


            Christopher Christie isn’t far behind when it comes to costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  In the old days, when a corporation was found guilty of a crime, the fines were deposited to the general treasury.  Now, instead of taxpayers getting a break, the money goes to the best connected law firms.  Corporate fines have been privatized.  As U.S. Attorney, Christie negotiated an “oversight” agreement with a medical prosthetics manufacturer that engaged in illegal price fixing.  The oversight contract went to former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was the chief law enforcement officer when torture became legal in the United States.


            Now, Corzine and Christie are going to participate in debates from which candidates who failed to raise $340,000 will be excluded.  According to law in New Jersey, a candidate is required to raise and spend at least $340,000 before he or she is allowed into the public debates required by the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars.  In other words, I am required, by law, to pay for a public financing system that will prevent me from getting into the debates.  Is this what soldiers are fighting and dying for in Iraq and Afghanistan?


            And that’s why the government in New Jersey is run for the benefit of the lawyers and campaign contributors.  The lawyers have created a legal system that is designed primarily to produce campaign contributions for the Republicans and Democrats.  Programs and policies that save money, or better yet, cost no money, have no potential to produce campaign contributions and consequently are not considered by the Republicans and Democrats.  Only higher spending fueled by borrowing and higher taxes can come from a political race where every candidate is required to raise at least $340,000 in order to even be heard.


Return to Institute of Election Analysis Home Page


Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf