Chris Christie lambasts role of 'dark money' in campaign finance

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized the nation's increasingly complex and convoluted set of campaign finance laws, calling the existing system a 'fantasy.'

Tim Larsen/Governor's Office/Reuters
George Connelly (r.) signs in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for voting in the General Election at the Emergency Services Building in Mendham, N.J., Tuesday. Governor Christie voiced sharp criticism of the nation's campaign finance reform on his monthly radio show Thursday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is “flying high” after his record-smashing fundraising helped Republicans dominate governor’s races across the country this week. The governor took on the nation’s byzantine array of campaign finance laws Thursday – including the shadowy networks of anonymous “dark money” that flowed through independent political groups this year.

Calling current campaign finance rules a “fantasy,” the outspoken New Jersey governor, who is mulling a 2016 run for the White House, suggested that rules restricting direct campaign contributions to candidates themselves have created an unaccountable system run amok.

“All they're doing is that the restrictions are just being gone around,” Governor Christie said on his monthly radio show Thursday. “They set up secret groups that don’t have to disclose their donors, and you don’t know who’s running the ads.”

And while Christie did not directly criticize the Supreme Court's controversial 2010 Citizens United decision, he weighed in once again on the disclosure loopholes that allow anonymous money to flood the nation’s airwaves with independent ads.

“You want to have campaign finance reform? I’m all for it,” he said. “Let’s get rid of all these secret groups. Have anybody be able to write any size check they want to any candidate they want at any time they want, but the candidate has to disclose the receipt of that contribution within 24 hours, on the Internet.”

Liberal groups and Democrats have long criticized the 5 to 4 Citizens United ruling, which said that federal and state governments can not restrict the free political speech of individuals – including “associations” of individuals in corporations and unions.

Yet laws restricting direct contributions to candidates themselves still stand, the high court ruled, agreeing that such contributions could lead to corruption.

The decision spawned the rise of the “super PAC,” political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of cash to express political opinions freely. But these committees can still be required to disclose who’s giving them money, the court ruled, and they may not coordinate their spending on political speech with any particular candidate or campaign.

While super PACs must disclose their unrestricted donors, these donors often include independent nonprofit groups, who are not subject to disclosure rules. The anonymous and unrestricted money raised by such nonprofits – which can include civic and business leagues, social welfare organizations, and real estate boards – is often called “dark money.”

Together, outside super PACs and non-profits spent about $540 million this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C.

Christie, however, wants to see this cash fully disclosed – and in the hands of candidates.

“If an ad’s made that people don’t like, you can’t attribute it to the candidate,” Christie said. “You go to the candidate, the candidate says, ‘I had nothing to do with that! It wasn’t my committee! It was this independent committee that I can’t have any involvement with.' I mean, it’s a fantasy.”

The New Jersey governor, who campaigned vigorously for Republican candidates leading up to election day on Tuesday, also said his travels were “a good trial run” for the rigors of being on the road in a potential presidential campaign.

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