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Should Convicted Politicians Give Their Campaign Money Back?

New Jersey political candidates who end up accused or convicted of wrongdoing would be forced to return campaign donations, if a shore Assemblyman’s bill becomes law.

Flickr User Keith Ramsey

The measure by Republican Ron Dancer (R-30) would require any candidate for elective office to reimburse all campaign donors in full and repay obligations incurred before the convictions. Campaign accounts would be frozen as soon as indictments are issued.

It would apply to first- through fourth-degree crimes, as well as to actions committed in other states and jurisdictions that would equate to crimes in New Jersey. If there aren’t enough funds to pay back contributors in full, they’d be paid pro-rata.

Current law allows former elected officials, including those behind bars, to keep unspent campaign cash.

The New Egypt Republican says recent reports of campaign finance disclosures for several politicians who left office, including some convicted and barred from seeking office, prompted him to draft the bill.

He cites recent reports of the passing of $49,200 from a former official to mayoral and council candidates in Newark from a $725,000 account. The same article noted the wife of a former county executive running a political action committee with more than $100,000 in leftover campaign donations.

Dancer says it’s “beyond absurd” for a convicted politician behind bars to be able to donate cash from their war chests to candidates outside.  “Allowing them to spread their influence from inside a prison is unconscionable,” he remarks in a statement. “It’s no wonder the public has lost confidence in its elected officials. This legislation is needed to put an end to this reprehensible practice.”

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