The fact that money talks in New Jersey, and in politics nationwide, is a dismaying reality ["The Best His Money Can Buy," op-ed, Nov. 6]. Unfortunately, it is nothing new.

More than 20 years ago, Frank Lautenberg (D), then a successful businessman, was among the first to use his personal funds for political gain when he spent about $6 million on his Senate race against Republican candidate Millicent Fenwick.

At the time, Ms. Fenwick approached Mr. Lautenberg about capping their spending at $800,000. He refused. She countered by raising that figure to $1.7 million, but again he refused.

By contrast, two years earlier, in 1980, Ms. Fenwick and her Democratic challenger for a seat in the House of Representatives agreed to cap their campaign spending at just $22,500.

Twenty-five years later, the influx of candidates' wealth and their willingness to spend it for elected office is masking an even greater threat to our democratic principles: Many interested in public office are being priced out of the marketplace.

For example, New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Codey (D), who assumed office when James E. McGreevey (D) resigned in disgrace, fared well in approval polls but was not in the race because he could not compete with Mr. Corzine's millions. The national parties don't mind the situation because they were able to spend less in New Jersey because Mr. Corzine, and his defeated Republican opponent, Douglas Forrester, were both flush.

When are we going to get campaign finance reform that levels the playing field? While this is a state example, it is a national problem.

AMY SCHAPIRO

Washington

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George F. Will's characterization of the New Jersey governor's race was misleading [op-ed, Nov. 6]. While Mr. Will is right when he says that Jon S. Corzine (D), the new governor, spent significant amounts of his own money for the race, he also said that "since securing the Democratic nomination, Corzine has outspent [Douglas] Forrester by $15 million."

What Mr. Will didn't mention is that Mr. Forrester, the losing Republican candidate, spent $11.2 million of his own money in the primary in addition to more than $10 million on the head-to-head race with Mr. Corzine.

SETH PENDLETON

Stockton, N.J.