Wednesday, October 10, 2007

“Legalized Bribery” Continues Unabated

Despite the enactment of “Pay to Play” legislative initiatives throughout the State, legalized bribery continues unabated in New Jersey. Loopholes are continually being exploited to raise money for candidates and political causes on the backs of those with business before the government or those seeking to receive such business. As a result, the same breed of politician remains in power and those who contribute get a leg up on the competition when it comes to the awarding of government business.

Those who argue that the system is a necessary evil, because without it campaign cash would be hard to come by, are missing the boat. If people believe enough in a candidate or a cause or a political party’s platform, they will willingly open their wallets. That’s the whole point of political contributions: to show your support for a candidate or political party or cause. The truth is that the only reason those who justify the system may be right is because of the current state of politics in our State.

First, many candidates being offered up by both political parties are by-and-large the same type of uninspiring selfish politicians that have dominated the political landscape in our State for the past 50 years. These same candidates run endlessly negative campaigns filled with personal attacks and innuendo and little substance. They do not inform, motivate or inspire our residents, providing little reason for our citizens to dig into their own pockets to fund their campaigns.

Second, the political parties in New Jersey all too often offer little for our residents and thus receive a minimum in the way of financial support from them. The State Republican Party is on life-support, is relentlessly negative, and offers no meaningful solution to most of our State’s most pressing problems. The State Democratic Party, ensconced because of both the blue trend New Jersey has undergone in the last decade as well as the incompetence of the Republican Party, is sitting pretty with little fear of electoral retribution and thus has no reason to go out of its way to provide thoughtful and positive change for our residents. If the State Republican Party developed a meaningful and thoughtful platform that would provide real solutions to New Jersey’s vexing issues, residents of New Jersey would willingly fill their coffers. Similarly, if the State Democratic Party took a more vocal stand on issues of importance to New Jerseyans and showed it was truly working in our best interest, its bank account would similarly be enriched.

Third, most PACs and similar groups are nothing more than lobbying arms or masked campaign engines of the politicians and their supporters and a way to circumvent laws meant to reform politics and political fundraising. If PACs and similar organizations actually began to stand for something and that concept resonated with our residents, contributions would flow in.

It is undoubtedly true that eliminating legalized bribery in New Jersey will have consequences for our political system. More honest, better informed candidates with thoughtful ideas will have to be found and encouraged to run. The State Parties will have to offer a meaningful agenda for our State’s residents with real solutions to New Jersey’s problems, such as skyrocketing State debt and property taxes, not clever sound bytes and negative attacks. And PACs will have to find real causes to support and motivate residents to contribute to them. These consequences can only improve politics in New Jersey.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of, is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Chairman of the New Providence Democratic Party and as Editor of The Alternative Press Contact Mike at