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Karcher Touts Ethics Reforms As ‘Step In Right Direction’

TRENTON – Senator Karcher applauded the Senate approval today of a number of measures designed to increase transparency and ethical controls in State government, including her own bill to ban political contributions from public agencies.

“The Senate made a bold statement today about our commitment to stronger protections against corruption and abuse in our own house,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, a leading ethics advocate in the Legislature. “Allegations or political favoritism and influence peddling taint the process, and taint the hard work that we do every day to serve the public interest. I’m happy that the Senate has taken these steps towards more ethical government, and I look forward to working towards a higher standard.”

The bills approved today, sponsored by Senator Karcher and Senate President Richard J. Codey, received bipartisan support and will now go before the Assembly for consideration.

“These measures move the ball forward in terms of ethics reform,” said Senator Karcher, who co-sponsored Senator Codey’s ethics bills. “We’re ensuring that requests for funding in the State budget are accessible to the public, so that taxpayers know where their money is going, and at whose request. We’re completely banning lobbyists from wining and dining legislators in order to win contracts or consideration of their client’s pet projects. And we’re ensuring that candidates cannot funnel campaign cash to themselves via a charitable front established for the sole purpose of enriching themselves or their families.”

Senator Karcher’s contribution to the ethics package, S-222, would prohibit any State or local public agencies from contributing to a candidate for elective public office or to any candidate committee, joint candidates committee, or any political party committee. The bill also prohibits a candidate or committee from accepting any such contribution. The bill defines “public agencies” broadly, to include every State or local governmental entity, including institutions for higher education. The bill also stipulates that anyone who willfully violates the bill’s provisions would be liable for a fine of up to $200,000 and any violator who holds an elective public office may be required to forfeit that office.

“The idea that public agencies are spreading around taxpayer dollars to influence politicians is ridiculous,” said Senator Karcher. “Elected officials should be beholden only to the best interests of the people of New Jersey, and public agencies should not waste public funds trying to exert political influence. There are far better uses for those funds than adding to a politician’s war chest.”

S-222 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 36-0.

Senator Karcher noted that while these bills go a long way to close ethics loopholes, tighten corruption controls and enhance public scrutiny of government, the Legislature still has more to do in terms of ethics reform.

“The quest for ethical government is an ongoing process, and we cannot lose sight of the ultimate goal because we’ve achieved a milestone in the process,” said Senator Karcher. “The Senate is committed to reform, and we have much to do to rid government of the pervasive influences of corruption, greed and abuse. The approval of these ethics bills is a good sign of a climate change in Trenton, but we must continue the pressure for stronger ethics reforms in the Garden State.”

The bills now head to the Assembly for consideration.

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