Dumont officials are scheduled to adopt the Ordinance for Public Contracting Reform, or “Pay-to-Play” at their regular meeting of the Mayor and Council on July 20th. Council members had disagreed over the necessity for the ordinance.
Wikipedia describes pay-to-play as a practice in which “the payer (an individual, business, or organization) makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation, political appointments or nominations, special access or other favors. The phrase, almost always used in criticism, also refers to the increasing cost of elections and the “price of admission” to even run and the concern ‘that one candidate can far outspend his opponents, essentially buying the election.’ Incumbent candidates and their political organizations are typically the greatest beneficiaries of Pay-to-Play. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have been criticized for the practice. Many seeking to ban or restrict the practice characterize pay-to-play as legalized corruption.”
Earlier this year, Heather Taylor of Citizens Campaign, a grassroots organization based in Metuchen, had presented a draft ordinance to Dumont for their consideration. The organization’s participants’ aim is to stop corruption, which should lower property taxes.
“The penalty for making a contribution in violation of the law is breach of contract. Attempts to circumvent the law, or “wheel” political contributions, could result in breach and a ban on future contracts for 4 years.
“Dumont is a prime candidate for change. Local contractors have made large campaign contributions to a variety of political committees in the town and statewide — and have, in return, received government work.
“Absent state regulations, this is perfectly legal, but [it] raises concerns among the public,” Taylor said.
In a follow-up report by The Record, Ms. Taylor criticized Dumont’s proposed law despite the fact that there had already been concerns that the council might lean toward a weaker pay-to-play ordinance. “By not prohibiting local professionals from donating to the county party, that presents a major back door.” She also stated that it imposes stricter limitations on donations than the State law. “It’s at constitutional risk because it imposes campaign contribution limits where it doesn’t have the power to.”
Interesting. The Citizens Campaign proposed ordinance was perfectly legal “absent State regulations”, but Dumont’s revisions put it “at constitutional risk”.
Since then, the Election Law Enforcement Commission’s July Newsletter gave a detailed explanation of the confusing and overlapping laws. Changes to the State’s laws were recommended that should be clearer and easier for everyone to work with. The State’s Pay-to-Play Law Blog subsequently supported those recommendations. In the end, that should help end corruption and lower property taxes.
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