Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, July 9, 2010

A second thought on pay-to-play: Close that loophole

I'm having second thoughts about one of the pay-to-play 'reforms' posted on Plainfield Today on Wednesday: Raising the contribution disclosure level from $300 (to $1,000 is suggested).

When ELEC's chairperson Jerry Fitzgerald English put forward his reform proposals in the agency's July newsletter (see here, PDF), I thought the proposals would go a long way to helping free New Jerseyans from the excesses of the corrupt pay-to-play atmosphere.

Now that it seems legislation may actually be put forward, by State Sen. Tom Goodwin (see story here), I am having second thoughts about the fourth of English's points, raising the disclosure.

English argues that because this is New Jersey, the limit is unrealistically low.

Upon reflection, it seems to me that this would be a major LOOPHOLE to any effective reform.

As things stand now, non-cash contributions up to $300 are exempted from the requirement that the donor's name, address and employer be reported.

The way many vendors get around the pay-to-play restriction is to have spouses, relatives, in-laws, employees and other make contributions to the $300 limit, meaning that the donor information will not have to be reported.

These contributions are often 'bundled' into one envelope presented to the candidate together, just so the candidate should understand exactly how much money has been generated by the vendor.

It's been a loophole all along.

Raising the limit to $1,000 would simply make it easier for it to continue to be an even more effective loophole, making it possible to raise larger sums without any reporting requirement.

A more gutsy 'reform', in my mind, would be to eliminate the exemption and simply require ALL contributions to be reported (as is the current situation with CASH DONATIONS, for whom the donor must be reported no matter how small the cash contribution).

Will somebody propose it?

Hey! This is New Jersey, what do you think?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Alan Goldstein said...

The City Council should not wait on the state to tighten up pay-to-play restrictions. It is unseemly that our mayor and state assemblyman (the local Democratic Party chairperson) sit back and collect campaign booty from a variety of engineers, attorneys, demolition outfits, developers, and consultants that do business with the city.

First, City Council should award contracts for city business only after an open and competitive bidding process.

Second, individuals and entities (along with family members) that are bidding for work, or already working under a contract, should be precluded from making any campaign contributions to city officials, local political parties, or their officers, for a period of time before entering bids, during the bidding process, and through the life of any contract they receive.

Plainfield doesn't need to wait on the state to get this done. It just needs well-written legislation. How many thousands of dollars are we overpaying as we throw work to businesses whose principals and spouses throw thousands back to the politicians who give them the work?

Anonymous said...

Why don't we just call this what it is .. extortion and bribery .. and prosecute it accordingly?? Oh .. that's right .. this is New Jersey where morals are bought and sold just like everything else we taxpayers pay for OVER TIME!!