1st ward council candidate the Eric Kurta: ‘Our work on campaign finance reform is not done’

Kurta for Council announces:

Dear Editor,

At the March 2 City Council meeting, Council members voted unanimously on legislation put forward by Hoboken’s People for Open Government (POG) addressing unethical campaign contributions to political candidates and officeholders. Unfortunately, our work cleaning up elections in Hoboken is not yet done, and I fear this legislation will serve a little more than window dressing for our City Council which is unwilling and unable to police itself adequately.

As recently as 3 weeks ago, the Council majority killedlegislation which would have limited an individual’s ability to wheel money to candidates – a way for donors to legally launder money and circumvent campaign finance laws. Several local residents, aware of how wheeling has influenced recent elections, spoke out about the issue at the March 2nd meeting. Hypocritically, the Council acknowledged the legislation they just passed did not go far enough and asked POG to draft a new ordinance – just like the one they rejected.
As the former president of POG, I am intimately familiar with the good work the organization has accomplished over the years. POG has made Hoboken’s city government more open and transparent and has helped to clean up much of the corruption that burdened our great city for too long. It is heartwarming to see that those long hours spent petitioning in the streets, negotiating a lawsuit settlement, and hammering out ever-improved legislation have finally resulted in legislation. It is good news for the people of Hoboken that we have taken such large steps toward a fairer election process. However, the City Council must remember that drafting and passing legislation is the responsibility of the Council, not POG.
I applaud the Council for passing these much-needed pay-to-play ordinance revisions which close loopholes in our city’s campaign finance laws, and I commend my successor Alice Crozier and the rest of POG’s board for their hard work on this issue, but we know more needs to be done. As someone who has led the charge to jump start campaign finance reform in Hoboken, I urge the City Council majority to make good on their promise to adopt a comprehensive anti-wheeling ordinance. We need to prevent big money and outside influences from buying Hoboken elections, and there is no excuse for delaying. I urge the City Council to work expeditiously with anyone willing to craft a comprehensive anti-wheeling ordinance that will prevent donors from circumventing the public interest. I gladly offer my assistance in helping toward that end.
The people of Hoboken know that if we want lower taxes, a smarter public transit system, well-maintained infrastructure, and more park and open space, then we need to ensure that our government is open and responsive to the citizenry. To that end, the electoral process must be fair. Thanks to the continued work of POG, we are beginning to see some improvements. But, we will need a comprehensive campaign finance system if we are ever going to elect representatives who look out for the public interest and not their own self-interest.

Eric Kurta

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