By Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini
Millions in outside Super PAC spending has become the new norm in New Jersey politics. In fact, nearly half of all money spent in last month’s elections came from these Super PAC’s which, by raising and spending unlimited sums of money, have dramatically altered the political landscape in our state.
Sadly, most of the millions spent to fund personal attacks against candidates across New Jersey didn’t come from donors who offered their financial support to the candidate of their choice. It came primarily from hardworking teachers who have no say on how their union dues are spent and are likely unaware that a portion of their hard-earned salary was used to assail an award-winning charity which exists to counteract the harmful effects of substance abuse and violence.
Anyone in the Monmouth County area with a radio or a television likely heard the relentless attack ads that sought to damage my political career by grossly distorting how the agency I run operates.
However, in a sign of the new political reality, these ads were not funded by my opponents; instead, they were an independent expenditure of the General Majority PAC–a Washington, DC-based political operation run by Senator Harry Reid’s former chief of staff, Susan McCue who also serves on the Rutgers Board of Governors despite the fact that she doesn’t even live in New Jersey.
This year the NJEA funneled nearly $4 million in member dues to the General Majority PAC which funded ads against legislative candidates across New Jersey. And a sizable chunk of that money—more than $1.5 million–was used, in part, to create and disseminate radio and television commercials that denigrated a non-profit that gives young people the tools to avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other negative behaviors.
Ironically, the very program attacked by this NJEA-backed group partners with educators in the classroom to help keep children healthy and safe. One can’t help but wonder if the teachers working side-by-side with prevention specialists and substance abuse professionals were even aware that their union dues were funding the assault on the agency providing these resources to their students.
Unfortunately, these and other valuable programs that seek to protect our children are nothing more than collateral damage in the effort to secure a political victory.
In today’s hyper-partisan world, we have come to expect the heated rhetoric and negative attacks which seem to dominate every election cycle. What is troubling, however, is when the vicious attacks are coming not from the politicians themselves, but from outside groups that care little about the destruction they inflict in pursuit of their political goals.
And, even more troubling, is that the men and women who dedicate their professional lives to preparing our young people for success can be used like human ATM’s by political groups that will destroy anyone or anything that gets in their way.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In my professional and political life, I have met scores of wonderful teachers who are doing incredible work in classrooms throughout our state. And while we may not agree on every issue, I am confident that the vast majority of educators would object to their union dues being used in this manner.
As such, I urge the teachers of New Jersey to reject these underhanded tactics by demanding that their union leaders stop funneling money to political groups that that engage in this type of slash-and-burn politics. Otherwise, they should replace their union leadership with individuals who recognize that teachers, who play such a vital role in our children’s lives, do not want their paychecks used to fund the vicious personal attacks that marked the last election cycle.
In addition, the aforementioned McCue, a Virginia resident and an extreme partisan with ties to some of the biggest Democrats in the country, should no longer be allowed to serve in a prominent role at our state university. Governor Christie should demand her immediate resignation and replace her on the Rutgers Board of Governors with a New Jersey resident who will put the interests of the children and residents of this state ahead of their political agenda.
Slanderous, personal attacks from unaccountable Super PACs might be the new norm for politics, but our state should not reward unqualified partisan hacks with powerful positions at our state institutions and our teachers shouldn’t be used as ATM’s to fund campaigns that have nothing to do with improving education in our state.