By Wm. Winkler
The other day, I read an opinion piece by a Mr. William Felegi which argued that Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce was not a conservative because Americans for Prosperity (AFP) had given her a "D" grade. The writer seems to miss the fact that AFP is not a conservative organization, but rather a libertarian one. Ideologically, there is a great difference.
When I was a Reagan delegate, back in 1980, the founder of AFP was the Vice Presidential candidate on a ticket opposed to Ronald Reagan, running on a platform of unrelieved social liberalism and international defeatism. Thank God they were not successful and Reagan was. President Reagan broke the Soviet Union and consigned Marxist Leninism to the dustbin of history.
The American Conservative Union is a conservative organization. For the same period as that rated by AFP, it gave Mrs. DeCroce an 84% -- hardly a "D". To show you just how ideologically different AFP is, here are a few comparisons:
Legislator AFP ACU
Jon Bramnick (R-21) F 95%
Joe Pennacchio (R-26) B 95%
Nancy Munoz (R-21) C 91%
Mike Doherty (R-23) A+ 89%
Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) A+ 89%
BettyLou DeCroce (R-26) D 84%
Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) A 75%
Dawn Marie Addiego (R-8) F 75%
Jennifer Beck (R-11) B 70%
Ron Dancer (R-12) B 59%
Chris Brown (R-2) B 23%
Nia Gill (D-34) D 0%
Assemblywoman DeCroce received an Award for Conservative Achievement from the American Conservative Union (ACU). Obviously, the libertarian AFP is pursuing a very different agenda from that of the conservative ACU.
Under the leadership of Steve Lonegan, New Jersey's AFP affiliate did take a more traditional conservative path. That was all due to Lonegan. I know, I worked for Lonegan. Much to the chagrin of national AFP, Steve pursued a vigorous conservative agenda on social issues, the Second Amendment, and illegal immigration. But Lonegan is long gone from AFP, and as its latest scorecard makes clear, AFP is back to being libertarian and not conservative.
Even so, AFP took credit for the work done by Assemblywoman DeCroce. AFP State Director Erica Jedynak wrote that the tax reform legislation Mrs. DeCroce supported "saved state taxpayers $1.4 billion in tax cuts-once completely phased in-in the final omnibus bill, including a repeal of the estate tax which saved taxpayers $320 million alone and will protect families from the government raiding inheritances when a loved one dies."
The conservative taxpayer advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), wrote that the tax reforms Assemblywoman DeCroce supported "abolished the state death tax, cut the state sales tax and reduces income taxes on retired New Jersey voters." ATR called it "a victory for taxpayers." Forbes magazine called her tax cuts one of the "5 best state and local tax policy changes of 2016" nationwide. Further praise came from the Tax Foundation, the oldest such conservative organization in the nation.
Mr. Felegi goes so far as to call Mrs. DeCroce a "liar" for stating, quite truthfully, that she "ensured money for roads and bridges will be dedicated for their intended purpose rather than pet projects." The Assemblywoman supported the ballot question that accomplished that in the face of stiff opposition led by radio talk show host Bill Spadea.
The Assemblywoman's voting record, her ratings by ideologically conservative groups, plus her 100% Pro-Life rating and her endorsement by the NRA, make her, on balance, a conservative in the humble opinion of this old winger.