Issues of money in politics and government transparency were the focus of a work session during the Hopewell Township Committee meeting Monday night, as municipal officials, residents and activists weighed in.
Mayor Kevin Kuchinski said the planned discussion was placed on the agenda after the topic of “transparency in government” was brought to the committee’s attention by Represent.Us, an anti-corruption non-profit organization.
While clutching a yellow sign with the words “United to Fix Corruption,” Represent.Us Central New Jersey Chapter Leader David Goodman said transparency was crucial to municipalities throughout the state.
“The importance of the issue is electrifying,” Goodman said to the committee. “This is an issue that not only affects the adult electoral population today, this is an issue that we have to be concerned about for the legacy of our children.”
Goodman said that Represent.Us came to fruition in 2012 after the presidential election and the “tsunami of money that overwhelmed the electoral process.”
“We’ve been increasingly active in bringing towns together in central New Jersey — [there are] currently six in Mercer and Middlesex County — and we hope this evening that Hopewell Township will become the seventh,” he said.
Ewing Township, South Brunswick, Lawrenceville, West Windsor and Cranbury are the remaining five areas in central New Jersey where Represent.Us is present.
Hopewell Township resident Geri Koblis spoke before the committee about “dark money,” a term describing money given to nonprofits who do not reveal their donors, and the possibility of creating a resolution to strengthen the local democratic process.
“I’d like to see our community be a part of this [movement],” Koblis said. “I’m very proud of where I live and I’m proud of our community and how hard we work here — how we strive to have a nice quality of life for all people — and I think we need to be concerned with protecting the integrity of the democratic process.”
According to a New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission study, $41 million from “dark money sources” was provided to a campaign in the 2013 gubernatorial election.
Following the work session, Deputy Mayor Julie Blake expressed her interest and support for Goodman and Koblis’ resolution proposal, saying she “would like…to write a version of this [resolution] for Hopewell that would speak to Hopewell.”
Kuchinski also agreed to go forward with a draft resolution.
“I think there is power in numbers when our legislatures hear it from multiple towns in their districts that this is something we need to move forward with,” he said.
A vote on the resolution will take place at the next committee meeting Tues. May 29 at 7 p.m.