TRENTON – A bill sponsored by State Senator Ellen Karcher which will completely prohibit State and local public agencies from making political contributions was signed into law last night.
“New Jersey taxpayers are suffering under the high cost of government in this State,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the leading champion of tougher ethics reform in the State Legislature. “We simply cannot afford to allow public agencies to waste taxpayer dollars by funding the political machinery in the Garden State. Government funding should be used for legitimate government purposes, not to butter up elected officials and win political favors.”
The new law, S-222, prohibits all State and local public agencies, including institutions of higher education, from making any political contribution to a candidate, political committee or party committee, and prohibits candidates or committees from accepting those contributions. The law stipulates that anyone who willfully violates the bill’s provisions would be liable for a fine of up to $200,000, depending on the size of the contribution, and any violator who holds an elective public office may be required to forfeit that office.
The legislation is in response to reports that State schools such as the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) have, in the past, used campaign contributions in an effort to lobby lawmakers for additional State funding and State support. Senator Karcher noted that she has long opposed the use of public funds to influence lawmakers, and has sponsored legislation to prohibit government agencies from spending tax dollars on lobbying efforts.
“These serious penalties reflect a zero-tolerance approach to the wasting of public funds,” said Senator Karcher. “Public money does not belong in political coffers, and anyone who violates this very basic principle should expect to pay a tough penalty, and potentially lose their elected office. The trust of New Jersey’s taxpayers is far more important than the perpetuation of politics in the State.”
“New Jersey in the past few years has faced budget deficit after budget deficit, and, given the State’s soaring property taxes, every cent of public funding is precious,” said Senator Karcher. “We cannot stand by while funding which could go to legitimate functions of government is being wasted on meaningless campaign contributions and lobbying fees. By banning political contributions from government agencies, we’re taking the first step towards becoming responsible stewards of New Jersey’s tax dollars.”
The bill was approved by the Senate in February, and by the Assembly in June. S-222 is the twenty-first of Karcher’s ethics reform bills to be signed into law.