TRENTON – At a news conference in the Statehouse today, State Senator Ellen Karcher announced bipartisan support for her bill to ban political contributions from contractors seeking redevelopment contracts in the State, thereby eliminating the threat of pay-to-play to win lucrative contracting bids.
“Pay-to-play is an insidious, invasive practice that colors the entire contracting process for government in a very negative light,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “For families living under the umbrella of a redevelopment zone, they feel vulnerable to the whims of a government that can be bought with well-placed political donations. We need to assure those families that the fate of their homes is not for sale by their elected representatives.”
Senator Karcher’s bill, S-2076, which is also sponsored in the Senate by Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and received support from Senator Peter Inverso, R-Mercer and Middlesex, would prohibit redevelopers in the State of New Jersey from making campaign contributions during contract negotiations or while fulfilling the terms of their contract. The ban on contributions would extend to any candidate, party or political action committee which may influence the bidding process, from local candidates through to the Statewide level. The legislation is based on model legislation written by the Citizens’ Campaign.
“The time to reform redevelopment contracts is now,” said Senator Karcher. “With bipartisan support, we can shepherd this bill through to the Governor’s Desk, and move the dialogue forward to end pay-to-play across the board.”
The Senator also noted that eminent domain abuse, in which public officials use the government’s power of condemnation to take property from homeowners and give it to campaign contributors for redevelopment, would be illegal under her bill.
Senator Karcher has long fought as an advocate for ethics reform in New Jersey, including comprehensive pay-to-play restrictions. As a councilwoman in Marlboro, she questioned corrupt land deals and redevelopment contracts, and was threatened with death from those with a vested interest in those deals. She went to the FBI, and worked with them to take down a number of corrupt officials and developers in Marlboro. Since entering the Senate in 2003, she has made eliminating public corruption a cornerstone of her career.
“Public corruption, in whatever form it may come, erodes the trust and faith people put in their elected representatives to work for their best interests,” said Senator Karcher. “I have made it my mission in the State Senate to combat corruption, whether it’s pay-to-play reform or higher ethical standards for public officials, because I know firsthand the effects that corruption can have on a municipality, and the residents who live there. We need to offer a government that is above reproach, and focused solely on the people’s business, and not personal interests.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate State Government Committee, and is pending consideration.