By: Carly Sitrin
NJ Spotlight readers in 3rd Congressional District list their priorities. The big items: campaign finance, healthcare, taxation
When it comes to policy issues, the two major candidates vying for Congress in New Jersey’s 3rd district could not be more different. Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur has aligned himself closely with President Donald Trump whose job-performance rating in the district is better than in the state as a whole, while Democratic opponent Andy Kim has built his campaign around progressive positions on election finance and healthcare reform.
According to the latest Stockton University, the race is close with MacArthur edging out Kim, 47 percent to 45 percent. The data show both candidates have the support of their party bases and men favor MacArthur as do Ocean County voters, while women and those from Burlington County side with Kim.
Anthony Braaten, 22, from Beachwood said campaign finance reform is one of his biggest concerns: “I feel like we are not being represented at all, he said.
For Braaten, and many like him, it all comes down to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. FEC, commonly known as Citizens United. The majority of justices ruled in that case that outside spending for election ads should not be capped and is a form of free speech. Thus, individuals and groups including unions, nonprofits and corporations all are allowed to spend as much as they want for a politician or party without it giving “rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” according to Justice Anthony Kennedy.
As a result of the Citizens United decision, outside spending in elections skyrocketed and entities like super PACs and so-called dark-money groups were created to funnel endless cash to candidates on both sides of the aisle.
Braaten said the amount of outside money permeating our elections raises questions about where elected officials’ allegiances lie. “The average person isn’t going to have a say in politics so long as these companies keep pouring money into the election,” Braaten said. “Why are [our representatives] going to listen to Joe Schmo who can only donate $5 versus a big corporation that can spend millions?”
And Braaten is not alone; aconducted by the George W. Bush Institute, the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center and Freedom House shows that “money in politics” is one of the primary reasons why people believe their government does not represent them.
Andy Kim, the Democratic candidate in the 3rd district, has made reform of campaign finance the lodestar of his platform. Indeed, he is backed by End Citizens United, a group dedicated to overturning the Supreme Court decision. Kim said in an interview with NJ Spotlight, “I’m not going to take a dime of corporate PAC money. It’s a defining aspect of my campaign.”
Kim has vowed not to accept any corporate political action committee money and says that after serving in Congress he would refuse to work as a lobbyist.
What’s more, he has signed a letter — along with other Democratic Party candidates — promising to overturn Citizens United.
MacArthur’s team did not return several requests for comment but he has spoken out recently regarding Kim’s campaign taking coordinated expenditures from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which accepts contributions from the same types of PACs Kim has disavowed.
MacArthur: “It is absolutely absurd for Andy Kim to claim that he is not accepting money from corporate PACs, when he is in the midst of spending nearly one million dollars in coordination with the DCCC. I am calling on Andy Kim to admit his ‘no corporate money’ pledge is now officially bogus.”