Bill Would Require Greater Transparency When Public Dollars Are Spent on Lobbying
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would require lobbyists to file regular reports with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) if they represent any government agency or political subdivision in the State of New Jersey was unanimously approved by the Senate State Government Committee today.
“When public dollars are spent on lobbying contracts, the taxpayers of New Jersey have a right to know exactly what sort of services are being bought and paid for with their taxes,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “This bill would require regular reporting on a lobbyist’s expenditures and activities in regard to contracts held with any government entity in the State. By requiring annual and quarterly reporting of this sort of information, we can hopefully start to move away from the pay-to-play culture which has been prevalent in Garden State politics for all too long.”
The bill, S-1215, would require any government affairs agent who is retained or engaged to represent a local, county or State governmental entity in New Jersey to file a notice of that representation, and quarterly and annual reports with ELEC regarding the activities and expenditures specific to that representation. The bill is drafted in a way that it only applies to governmental affairs agents who are retained to influence legislation, regulations or governmental processes, and would not affect persons performing services in the course of employment or an officer or an employee of the governmental entity.
The bill would also require government entities that retain lobbyists to file annual reports about the representation by the lobbyist. The report would be required to include a justification and purpose for retaining the lobbyist, an explanation as to why an officer or employee cannot provide the same services as the lobbyist and why other available resources, including government service sharing, could not provide the same services, a description of the terms of the agreement with the lobbyist, including anticipated cost, and a description of the result achieved by the lobbyist’s efforts.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again political favor-trading and rampant waste of taxpayer dollars, hidden away in contracts to politically-connected lobbyists,” said Senator Weinberg. “The ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ mentality in certain municipalities, counties, and even Statewide agencies has to come to an end. The taxpayers of New Jersey demand full accountability, and it’s time that they receive a full accounting of tax dollars being spent to enrich lobbyists from the public trough.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.