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 approved by the Senate yesterday by a vote of 32-0.
“Whenever public funds are being used for lobbying contracts, the taxpayers of the State have a right to know exactly what sort of services their hard-earned tax dollars are paying for,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “This bill would require lobbyists to regularly report any activities and expenditures which are taking place on the public dime. By opening up governmental lobbying contracts to the light of public scrutiny, we can hopefully turn the page on the systemic corruption and the pay-to-play culture which has given the political process in the Garden State a bad reputation for far 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.
“As one of the most expensive states in the nation, we’re paying a price for political favor-trading and governmental waste, fraud and abuse by politically-connected lobbyists,” said Senator Weinberg. “The days of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ politics have come to an end in the Garden State. The taxpayers demand a full accounting of how their tax dollars are being spent, and this bill will expose artificially-inflated lobbying contracts which enrich the politically well-heeled while inflating taxes on the honest, hard-working taxpayers of the State.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.