Study: Recent Attacks on NJ’s Clean Elections Program are Unfounded & False

August 18, 2008

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Tim Bradley, BerlinRosen Public Affairs, (646) 452-5637

Brennan Center Urges State Lawmakers to Extend Successful Campaign Finance System

New York – Today the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released an exhaustive analysis debunking a survey by the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), an organization ideologically opposed to campaign finance reform, which claimed that New Jersey's Clean Elections public funding program is unsuccessful.

The Brennan Center's analysis finds that CCP's survey and conclusions were based on unscientific and unsupported data, and that New Jersey's public funding pilot project is in fact reducing the influence of special interests in state government. Today the Brennan Center urged New Jersey to extend the state's Clean Elections program as lawmakers prepare to vote on continuing the program for next year's elections.

The following statement can be attributed to Laura MacCleery, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center and a co-author of the Brennan Center's analysis of CCP's survey:

"Two weeks ago, the Center for Competitive Politics issued a misleading and unsupported attack on New Jersey's Clean Elections program. Its survey offers only unscientific and unsupported data to arrive at a predetermined conclusion that the state's campaign finance system is not living up to its goals. CCP's study is plagued with methodological flaws and fails to demonstrate that there is any problem whatsoever with New Jersey's Clean Elections program.

"As the Brennan Center for Justice analysis demonstrates, the CCP survey purports to draw connections between donors who provided money to Clean Elections candidates and their organizational affiliations, suggesting that this money is also from the ‘special interests.' However, CCP does not say whether the organizations collected the money or donors gave on their own, and will not release the underlying survey data or the full survey, despite repeated requests to do so. Nor have they explained how they picked survey respondents.

"Most importantly, there is no problem demonstrated by its results. Small donations - even large numbers of them - from grassroots organizations pose no threat to democracy. All that CCP has shown is that groups with large numbers of voters have been empowered by Clean Elections to participate by giving $10 each to candidates. It comes as welcome news that voters of all stripes and affiliations - who are, after all, district constituents - want to give qualifying contributions, and that the Clean Elections program poses no threat to the vibrant institutions that organize their members and seek to play a role in politics.

"Their survey did find that stunning majorities of both Republicans and Democrats in the districts studied ‘want the clean elections program to succeed' - in the 14th District, 63 percent of Democratic contributors and an even higher 64 percent of Republicans checked that answer. And a September 2007 Center for Research & Public policy (CRPP) survey on behalf of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission found that 58 percent of respondents believe that the program will ‘reduce corruption in New Jersey politics' and over two thirds believe that the program will ‘make a positive difference in New Jersey politics.'

"It would be unwise for anyone to take CCP's findings seriously. For its part, CCP should release its data immediately so we can see whether it is hiding results that undermine its predetermined objectives.

"Clean Elections systems serve many important goals - they free lawmakers up from the time-consuming fundraising race, they allow small donors to play a critical role in elections, and they break the cozy nexus between wealthy corporate interests and policymakers. New Jersey's successful Cleans Elections program deserves to be extended for the next election, and should not be derailed by shoddy surveys."

The Brennan Center's detailed analysis of CCP's Preliminary Findings concludes that:

 

  • CCP's claims reflect an overly simplified and misleading view of the Clean Elections program.
  • The survey does not show there is any problem whatsoever with New Jersey's Clean Elections program.
  • The data do not support CCP's conclusions and many data points remain undisclosed.
  • CCP's analysis is marred by additional methodological lapses.

 

View the full Brennan Center debunking of the Center for Competitive Politics survey here.

 

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