Activists propose more public financing for N.J. candidates

Saying large donors play an outsize role in political campaigns, a New Jersey consumer group is proposing a way to limit their influence.

Two-thirds of the contributions to candidates in the state’s congressional primaries came from donors who gave $1,000 or more, said Lubabah Chowdhury with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.

The 383 largest contributors gave as much as more than 6,800 small donors combined.

“What’s becoming clear is that small donors’ voices are increasingly drowned out by the spending of a small cadre of large donors, and ordinary citizens are the ones who lose out,” she said during a demonstration on the steps of the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton.

Providing tax credits and public matching funds for small donors would help candidates raise the money they need without relying on big-money contributors, Chowdrurry said.

Rutgers law professor Frank Askin agreed that suggestion sounds like a good idea, but said he doubts it would ever work its way through the Legislature.

“The public is skeptical about politicians in the first place, and I don’t know if they want to give public money to politicians,” he said. “I just don’t know.”

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