Before heading to the polls on Tuesday take a moment to research who is funding the campaigns of your local candidates. In Paterson, voters will be choosing two County Freeholders, one County Surrogate, two Assemblymembers, and a State Senator. View a Sample Ballot here.
Find out if the candidates are supported by certain special interests, government contractors, or developers. Knowing who supports the candidates can prove to be valuable information that might impact which candidates you support.
Step 1: Go to the ELEC website and on the left hand side click on "view a candidate or committee report". Or click here.
Step 2: To get the best search results, simply enter either your county "Middlesex" or legislative district "17th Legislative District" (depending which candidates you're interested in) and the year "2011", leave all the other fields blank.
Step 3: The search results will show you every candidate committee and joint candidates committee created in your region.
Select the committee you want to look at. (If candidates are running as a team, the Joint Candidate Committee is the best place to start)
Step 4: Once you select the committee you're interested in, you will see several links.
To review campaign finance reports you will select reports that begin with an "R", i.e. R-1, R-2, R-3.
If you don't see any disclosure reports, that means the committees haven't raised enough contributions to require disclosure. Here are the reporting thresholds:
For a single candidate committee - $4,000
For two or more candidates - $7,600
For three or more candidates - $11,000
But, now that we are in the 11-day pre-election window there may be a flurry of fundraising activity, since all the committees will have to disclose ANY cash contributions or contributions of $300 or more. (These contributions will be disclosed on a C-1 form.)
Now that you have the reports, what do you look for?
- Are the contributions from local residents and community businesses within the county?
- Or, is a majority of the funding from outside groups or companies trying to gain favor for future contracts or legislation?
- Are municipal employees forced to contribute to the incumbents?
- How much money is being spent on each side?
- Are a large proportion contributions undisclosed?
- Are specific special interests flooding campaign money into the race?
These are all important things to look for. For more a more detailed lesson, check out this guide to following the money prepared for the New Jersey Hyperlocal News Association.