Chris Christie Is Dancing In the Dark Money

Posted by Jay Riestenberg on November 20, 2014

Thumbnail for the dark money campaign

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has a strange plan for campaign finance reform. In a recent radio interview, he called for complete disclosure of campaign contributions and the end of secret, "dark money" groups.

Great start, but the next part of his plan isn’t so promising. Christie wants to abolish virtually all limits on political spending, giving more power and a louder voice to big corporations and the richest 1%, who already account for the vast majority of the money in our system.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which raised more than $97 million for this past election, Christie has spent a lot of time flying around the country to woo big money donors in secret meetings. Not surprisingly, the RGA’s top funders this year were Koch Industries and Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

And that’s just the money we know about. While the RGA discloses its donors, Christie has been a prolific fundraiser for dark money groups over the years. In 2011, he attended a secret fundraising and strategy session hosted by the Koch brothers to plan for the 2012 campaign. The Kochs spent an estimated $400 million on that election, largely through dark money groups, and made plans to spend $290 million in 2014.

What’s more shocking is the dark money Christie willingly accepted for his reelection drive last year. The “Committee for Our Children's Future,” an outside group run by some of the governor's college friends, spent $7.8 million supporting Christie's reelection. As a dark money political nonprofit, the committee never revealed its donors. “It’s up to them…It’s their group…I have nothing to do with the group. If they are out there helping me, I say thank you very much,” Christie said when asked if the group should disclose.

Christie has a long history of stretching campaign finance and ethics laws. Earlier this year, he faced a federal investigation into whether he used federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds to run TV ads starring him and his family during his reelection campaign. He's also been scrutinized recently for awarding pension management contracts to companies that made sizable contributions to his campaign, the New Jersey Republican Party, and the Republican Governors Association.

As Bruce Springsteen, another famous New Jerseyan, might say: Democracy is jammed with broken politicians on a last chance power drive. Their big money donors are on the run tonight and Christie's been giving them a place to hide.

Here are Gov. Christie’s recent comments regarding campaign finance reform:

“All these other laws…don’t work. And, by the way, many of them restrict people’s First Amendment right to express their support for whomever they want to support. So my view would be: You want to have campaign finance reform? I’m all for it. Let’s get rid of all these secret groups. Have anybody be able to write any size check they want to any candidate they want at any time they want, but: the candidate has to disclose the receipt of that contribution within 24 hours, on the Internet. That way, you know who’s financing their campaigns. If they then take actions that make you think they’ve been bought? Then, don’t vote for that person…They set up secret groups, that don’t have to disclose their donors, and you don’t know who’s running the ads. If an ad’s made that people don’t like, you can’t attribute it to the candidate. You go to the candidate, the candidate say, ‘I had nothing to do with that! It wasn’t my committee! It was this independent committee that I can’t have any involvement with. I mean, it’s a fantasy.”

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics

Tags: Fighting Big Money

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