Zero political contributions for contractors

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PETERSBURG – Upper Township Committee approved an ordinance last week that prohibits any contribution from contractors to candidates running for local political office.


The law is a stricter version of an ordinance approved in September. That Pay to Play ordinance limited political contributions to $300.

That ordinance is similar to a 2006 law passed by the New Jersey legislature, which prohibits a municipality from awarding a contract of more than $17,500 without using a fair and open process if the contractor has contributed over $300 to a local political campaign in the prior year. The state law also bans contractors from contributing to political campaigns during the life of the contract.

The township abided by the state law since 2006, but approved a local version to help Upper Township improve its score on the state’s “best practices checklist.” The checklist is sent out by the state annually and covers a range of issues from human resources, budgeting, and ethics training. A town that does not score enough “yes” answers can see its state aid reduced up to five percent.

Upper Township scored in the 90 percentile in this year’s checklist and received all of its state aid.

During meetings, Committeeman Tony Inserra pushed for a stricter Pay to Play ordinance for Upper Township. He wanted the lower the limit on allowable contributions from $300 to $0.

Committee members supported the stricter ordinance, but there were questions of enforceability.

The $300 limit is enforceable because any contribution over that amount should appear on New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) forms, which candidates have to fill out when they are running for office. Reportable contributions over $300 are listed on those forms along with the name and address of the contributor. The township clerk’s office uses that information to determine whether contractors have contributed and if they can receive a contract.

Contributions under $300 are not reportable and do not appear on ELEC forms except in the aggregate. The township clerk’s office would have no way of knowing if a contractor has donated less than $300 or not.


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