Harrison and Kennedy

Brigid Harrison, left, of Longport, and Amy Kennedy, right, of Brigantine, are considered leaders in the race to be the Democratic nominee to challenge U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd.

Democratic congressional candidate Amy Kennedy, of Brigantine, released a policy on fighting political corruption this past week, which received kudos from the electoral reform group End Citizens United.

The same day, her opponent Brigid Callahan Harrison, of Longport, countered with news of a high-profile endorsement from U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

“It’s ironic that on the day Amy Kennedy lays out her aggressive policy to end corruption in New Jersey’s elections, George Norcross flexes his political muscle to bring in an endorsement for Brigid Harrison,” wrote Kennedy campaign manager Josh Roesch. “Brigid’s name may be on the ballot, but we all know who’s pulling the strings.”

Harrison said it was “insulting to me that Ms. Kennedy is alleging that the senior Democratic U.S. Senator from New Jersey is taking marching orders from Mr. Norcross. I think every Democrat should be offended by her attack on Bob Menendez.”

She said she will not engage in the politics of dividing the Democratic party.

“In order for us to beat Jeff Van Drew we have to be unified behind a candidate and we don’t do that by insulting key members of our party like Senator Menendez and organized labor,” Harrison said.

Democratic power broker George Norcross, of Camden County, is considered the major decision maker in the South Jersey Democratic organization, and Harrison has racked up endorsements from six of eight county chairs in the district and from state Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, D-Atlantic, and several unions.

A mental health advocate and former teacher, Kennedy has the endorsement of the Atlantic City Democratic Committee, which has strong ties to local Democratic power broker Craig Callaway.

Kennedy said she has not hired the Callaway organization for any purpose, and has not decided who to hire for”get out the vote” efforts on her behalf.

Kennedy is calling for candidates to pledge not to accept corporate political action committee money, and to support H.R. 1, the “For The People Act.” She said it improves citizens’ access to the ballot box, closes lobbyist loopholes and requires far greater disclosure for political contributions.

The political action committee End Citizens United, which works for election finance reform, released a statement in support of Kennedy’s plan.

“Her plan would increase transparency and accountability in government and end the dominance of Big Money in politics,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United. “These reforms would ensure that our representatives work for the people, not special interests looking to pad their bottom lines.”

Citizens United is the 2010 Supreme Court decision that established legal basis for corporations having First Amendment rights, allowing wealthy individuals and groups to spend unlimited money to influence elections.

Kennedy and Harrison are considered front runners in the Democratic primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd. There are five other candidates in the running.

Menendez gave his blessing to Harrison in a fundraising email.

“Brigid Callahan Harrison is the type of leader South Jersey needs and deserves, and I’m doing all I can to help send her to Congress,” Menendez said in the email seeking funds that will be evenly split between Harrison and Menendez.

Kennedy’s plan also includes ending partisan gerrymandering and making it easier to vote; passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act and closing loopholes in campaign finance laws that allow foreign powers to spend money to influence the country.

Harrison released a plan of her own about two weeks ago on electoral reform. She called for Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to end the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics; for a law requiring the president to appoint new members to the Federal Election Commission, the agency that enforces election laws, within 90 days; and to set up a funding mechanism for the FEC so it is not dependent on Congress.

She also would support bills to restrict foreign corporations’ ability to spend money in U.S. elections, and to require that ads placed by dark-money organizations disclose their largest donors.

Kennedy said Harrison’s plan didn’t go far enough.

“She said she supports election reform but made no mention of support for H.R. 1, the watershed legislation to address special interest money in politics,” Kennedy said. “And she mocked candidates who pledge not to take corporate PAC money.”

Harrison said she supports H.R.1 but didn’t feel the need to include it in her plan, since it has already passed the House of Representatives. She didn’t take the pledge to reject corporate PAC money, Harrison said, because it is made up of “voluntary contributions from working men and women who work for American companies. The average contribution is $214.”

Kennedy’s full plan can be viewed at amy kennedyforcongress.com.

Harrison’s plan is available at brigidfor southjersey.com.

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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