Conservative activist Steve Lonegan said the Republicans’ tentative support of Gov. Corzine’s ethics reform plan is a mistake.
While more mainstream Republicans have cast the reforms as the Democratic realization of what the GOP has been pushing for all along, Lonegan – a staunch opponent of campaign finance laws in general who’s considering running for governor next year– thinks they should be fighting against them.
“Republicans should get their act together and go after this with a vengeance, because this is an assault on liberty,” he said. “I think it’s an all-out assault on freedom of speech, freedom of association and the whole American system and tradition of open and competitive elections.”
Lonegan last year made headlines for threatening to file a lawsuit against the state’s pay-to-play laws that Corzine’s reforms would strengthen. And this year, he became on of the most outspoken opponents of the state’s Clean Elections program, which provided public funds for candidates.
Lonegan said that the only thing the reforms would accomplish would be to make running for public office less accessible to ordinary New Jereyans, while not changing for candidates with the ability to self-fund.
“The voters don’t need Jon Corzine determining what’s right and what’s wrong in their eyes,” he said. “We don’t need Jon Corzine telling us how to live our lives, how to campaign.”
Lonegan’s protests against public campaign funds and campaign finance reform sometimes bring eye-rolls from election reform proponents, who note that Lonegan received matching funds from the state in his 2005 gubernatorial bid. But Lonegan said that — as long as there are restrictions on how and where he can raise money — then he has to play the hand he’s given.
If Lonegan runs for the Republican nomination next year, he said he’ll seek matching funds again. And he makes no apologies for taking them three years ago.
“That campaign’s matching funds were the best money New Jersey taxpayers have ever spent,” he said.