A recent report from PolitickerNJ confirms what many already know: Pay to Play Reforms are failing all over the state of New Jersey. In this instance Politicker focused on Middlesex County.
What may not be as widely known is that Comptroller Boxer also issued a report on how the Pay to Play Laws were faring. While not as widely reported on as the DRPA Report the Comptroller’s report on Pay to Play at the local level is considerably damning. From Comptroller’s Report:
One of the hallmarks of New Jersey’s traditional no-bid contracting system was the nearly unlimited discretion of the agency awarding the contract in selecting a politically favored vendor. In practice, fair-and-open requirements do not materially change that substantial discretion…
In practice, the system of fair-and-open has multiple weaknesses. As a result, it presents few, if any, real obstacles to a government entity seeking to award a contract to a politically favored vendor. As long as the contract opportunity is minimally advertised and selection parameters of any kind are drafted, the ultimate award is within the entity’s discretion and immune from outside review. In effect, no-bid contracts may be awarded to favored local vendors much as they had been prior to the passage of the pay-to-play law, and without regard to issues such as vendor cost. While no legislation can eliminate all risk associated with political corruption and donor influence in the government procurement setting, it is apparent nearly six years into its implementation that the fair-and-open system offers notably few hurdles for wrongdoers to overcome.
So the Pay to Play Reforms previously passed have failed at the local level. But what exactly happened in Middlesex County?
According to Politicker a shell game was played between the local organization and Political Action Committees (PACs) much in the same vein as is done with Norcross Machine PACs like The Leaders Fund. From PolitickerNJ:
No longer would vendors be free to donate campaign funds in exchange for lucrative contracts. Good government would reign in Middlesex.
But since the passage of the ordinances, Democratic political parties and candidates at the county and local level have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from a web of Political Action Committees that are in turn funded by the very same contractors the good government measures were supposed to restrict…
In some cases, vendors have maxed out on contributions to specific candidates and committees and the PAC allows them to continue to donate in larger amounts. In others, vendors are restricted entirely from donating to a candidate or committee and the PACs allow them to funnel money to candidates and officials without running afoul of pay to play restrictions.
Are politicians passing Swiss Cheese laws on purpose? Good Government Laws need to be comprehensive given the resilience of corruption in New Jersey. And where is Governor Christie on stopping this corruption or really any issue dealing with corruption? Nowhere to be found. Maybe someone will bring it up to him at the next Reform Jersey Now fundraiser.