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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pay-to-play reform tabled

Senate Democrats this week tabled a group of four Republican bills that would have represented a major step forward in fighting pay-to-play and the corrupt culture of government contributions that plagues every level of New Jersey's government today.

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney led the way with the motion to table the bills, which passed by a 22 to 16 vote. State Sen. Shirley Turner, Trenton's senator, voted yes on the motion to table the bills.

This continues the peculiar way that New Jersey's allegedly progressive Democratic Party continues its insistence on not, or at least slowly dealing with these important issues.

It is obvious that the majority party may have had some qualms with some of the measures. Reviewing the language of the four bills shows there may be some stumbling blocks or problems that some state legislators may have noticed, requiring revision.

But if that is the case then do so, and don't put the bills in a state of limbo so that contractors and cronies can contribute to public officials and receive contracts for services that would be better delivered to other contractors.

While it may be somewhat inaccurate, a study published earlier this year put the cost of the behavior of New Jersey's corrupt officials at $1 billion per year.

The lifeblood of much of that corruption is the ability to donate money in such a way that it gets moved around or wheeled through county or other organizations, circumventing the existing pay-to-play laws.

In fact, some researchers say that fully 75 percent of all potentially shady or illegal contributions make their way around the existing laws, into the pockets of politicians. When that happens, the floodgates of public funds open, enriching those who have no business doing work for the people or their government.

So, here's to some substantive, bi-partisan pay-to-play and contribution reform this year, and an end to politics and the tabling of potentially useful legislation.

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