TRENTON – Two bills, sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher, which would ban public entities from hiring lobbyists and making political donations with taxpayer-collected funds was unveiled today in the Legislature.
“We need strict, clear language to ensure that public dollars are spent on the people of New Jersey, and not politics,” said Senator Karcher, D-Mercer and Monmouth. “Public institutions such as State colleges, public utility agencies and county and local governments, have a right to representation from their legislators, and should not devote public money to lobbying fees or political contributions. The fact that some of the State’s taxpayer-funded assistance gets funneled back into a political process already over-saturated with money is contrary to the interests of the people of New Jersey.”
Senator Karcher’s first bill, S-2515, would prohibit any public entity, defined as any agency of State, county or local government, such as school boards, State colleges, public utility agencies and any Departments or Divisions of the State, from contracting with a governmental affairs agent other than a regular, full-time employee of the public entity. The bill is in response to the growing number of public entities which are engaging private lobbyists to press for additional State aid in New Jersey.
“There should be no need for additional lobbyists to work on behalf of public entities when there is already more than enough representation in State government,” said Senator Karcher. “Publicly-funded agencies cannot be a trough from which lobbyists and other politically-connected individuals feed on public funds. There must be protections to ensure that State funds, collected from the taxpayers of New Jersey, are dedicated to needs of New Jerseyans, and not fueling politics as usual in the Garden State.”
Senator Karcher added that she will also introduce a second bill to prohibit public entities from making political donations. The Senator argued that her bill would ensure that debates over increases or decreases in State funding would be based on the merits of the proposal, as opposed to “political pay-back to potential donors.”
“New Jersey is already overrun by contractors seeking to curry political favor, but the reported donations made by some public colleges, and other agencies, to sway legislators’ sympathies is too much,” said Senator Karcher. “While I doubt very much that many of the recipients even knew where the donations had come from, the perception that governmental support can and must be bought through political donations further damages the integrity of government in the Garden State. We must demand that State funds, allocated for very specific purposes, are not pumped back into the political machine in New Jersey.”
Both of Senator Karcher’s bills are pending consideration by the Senate State Government Committee, which is scheduled to meet again on Thursday, May 19. The first bill, S-2515, will be formally introduced on Thursday, while the other bill will be proposed for introduction.