This is a guest post by Michael Lilley, Founder and President of the Sunlight Policy Center of New Jersey, which seeks to educate residents on the way NJEA “uses their tax dollars against their own interests, secures benefits for the few over the many, and blocks needed reforms.” This was originally published on SPCNJ’s website.
There’s a hotly contested school board race going on in Camden. News accounts have described it as a contest between two slates: “Camden Votes” backed by the NJEA-affiliate Camden Education Association, and “Education for Everyone” backed by the Camden County Democratic Committee.
The Sunlight Policy Center of New Jersey doesn’t typically opine on local politics, but we have been researching the NJEA’s vast network of allies and proxies with a full report coming out in November. The scale and money behind the NJEA’s network is mind-boggling and SPCNJ was curious if it was present in Camden.
It is – in a big way. A perusal of the “Camden Votes” and Camden Education Association Facebook pages makes clear that NJEA is once again spreading its money (actually it’s your property tax dollars) around. Election literature paid for by the NJEA’s Super PAC – Garden State Forward – is pictured many times. No doubt Garden State Forward is blanketing the city because it can afford to.
But what struck SPCNJ is that Garden State Forward is supposed to be an INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE committee. That means it cannot legally coordinate with candidates’ campaigns. So what is the Garden State Forward literature doing in the Facebook posts of the candidates, themselves? Perhaps they don’t know that coordination is against the rules, but the political pros at Garden State Forward surely do.
This wouldn’t be the first time Garden State Forward pushed the envelope. As exposed by SPCNJ, they are one of the biggest sources of “dark money” in New Jersey politics. They also dropped $4.8 million (of your tax dollars) backing a Trump-supporting Republican against Senate President Sweeney. So it wouldn’t be surprising if Garden State Forward was playing fast and loose with the rules in Camden.
Fair elections require that everyone – even the richest, most powerful special interests like NJEA – play by the rules.