Calls for Change to New Jersey Pay-to-Play Laws - State and Federal Communications

September 15, 2011  •  

Calls for Change to New Jersey Pay-to-Play Laws

New JerseyToday the New Jersey State Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer and the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) Executive Director Jeff Brindle called for a simpler pay-to-play system, tighter contracting rules, and more complete disclosure of contractor contributions.

Comptroller Boxer issued a report finding the state’s pay-to-play laws contain “a series of fatal flaws [that] have essentially rendered New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play law meaningless in the effort to prevent local governments from steering contracts to politically favored vendors.” Director Brindle stated, “Unfortunately, New Jersey’s political history is littered with examples of private contractors securing lucrative public contracts through targeted contributions.”

The comptroller’s report suggests several changes, such as eliminating the fair-and-open exception which has different regulatory systems at the state and local levels, strengthening fair-and-open guidelines to require more competitive contracting, and reforming New Jersey’s contract laws to allow a more competitive vendor-selection process.

Drawing on earlier recommendations from ELEC, Director Brindle also made calls for changes, including for one state pay-to-play law to apply “across the board” for all jurisdictions, emphasizing “the current maze of local and state laws is terribly confusing.” Additionally, ELEC proposes that any public contractor receiving a contract over $17,500 file an annual report with the agency, listing the contractor’s contributions and public contracts. The current disclosure threshold is $50,000. Director Brindle also stated the contribution limits for contractors should be raised to help address fundraising concerns and not discourage participation in the political process.

“Combined with competitive bidding reform as suggested by the Comptroller, together these changes would, I believe, constitute the strongest pay-to-play law in the nation,” Director Brindle said.

Comptroller Boxer’s press release is here. Director Brindle’s press release is here.

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