Thursday, September 23, 2004

End of Pay to Play 

in New Jersey?

Under the executive order, state agencies and independent authorities will be prohibited from awarding contracts to businesses that have contributed to a gubernatorial candidate or a state- or county-level political committee. It will also apply to individuals who own or control more than 10 percent of a company or partnership. Advocacy groups known as 527's that are controlled by such businesses also fall under the order.

The measure applies to state contracts in excess of $17,500, but will not affect county and municipal contracts, unlike a bill earlier this year that failed to pass in the Legislature. Those contracts account for about half of all government spending in New Jersey. The restrictions also do not apply to legislative candidates or the powerful political action committees controlled by legislative leaders. Last year, those legislative leadership committees raised $12.6 million.

Still, the new rules are the strictest in the nation, according to Craig Holman, the campaign finance lobbyist for Public Citizen in Washington, who helped draft the first pay-to-play proposal in Trenton almost three years ago - a proposal that was not adopted. "I'm delighted," Mr. Holman said. "This is much more sweeping than what any other state has come up with."

I like the idea of getting a lot of the money (i.e. corruptable influence) out of politics, but I believe it'll always find a way of getting through. Maybe not as "PAC donations", but now just as bribes? I'm proud that NJ is leading the way, but with all the indictments for corruption, it had to start there.


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