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Disclosure Proves Secret Christie Political Slush Fund Nothing More Than ‘A Swiss Bank Account For Pay-to-Play’

(TRENTON) — Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan today called for the cancellation of all state contracts handed-out to contributors of Reform Jersey Now, after the group’s disclosure yesterday that it had received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from firms that went on to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

“The connection to Reform Jersey Now seems to have turned from an embarrassment of riches for well-connected contractors to just plain embarrassment for New Jersey taxpayers,” said Buono (D-Middlesex). “After years of hearing Republicans decry the ‘pay-to-play’ culture of New Jersey, this disclosure uncovered hypocrisy of monumental proportions. These contracts need to be nullified right now, before one more dollar of taxpayer money is spent to reward Reform Jersey Now’s donors.”

“Now we know the reason for all the secrecy,” said Cryan (D-Union). “Reform Jersey Now was nothing more than a Swiss bank account for pay-to-play. For a Governor who claims of having the highest ethical standards, this is just the latest example of his ‘do as I say, not as I do’ style. Not one of these tainted contracts should stand, and if the Governor was a man of his word, he’d cancel them and allow them to be rebid in a truly fair and open process.”

According to Reform Jersey Now’s own declaration and resulting news analysis, the group raised nearly $625,000 throughout 2010 in what it claimed was an effort to promote reform of state government, but what was really shown to be nothing more than a political campaign by GOP operatives run outside of state campaign finance and pay-to-play laws.

Of Reform Jersey Now’s contributions, roughly 20 percent was connected to just four firms that received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of state business in 2010:

  • Ferreira Construction ($25,000 donation), which received state transportation contracts totaling $174 million;
  • George Harms Construction ($25,000 donation), which received more than $130 million worth of state transportation contracts;
  • Michael Perrucci ($22,500 donation) and Douglas Steinhardt ($22,500 donation), partners in a law firm which did hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business with several state agencies and commissions; and
  • Langan Engineering & Environmental ($22,500 donation), which earned roughly $2 million through contracts with various state agencies.

They also noted a $1,000 donation from Earle Asphalt Company, which had been barred from receiving state work because of previous pay-to-play donations and which was the plaintiff in a rebuffed court challenge to the state’s stringent pay-to-play laws.

“On its face, this list of donors appears to be little more than a quid pro quo to maintain the status quo,” said Cryan. “So much for reforming Jersey now, this group’s donor list reads like a who’s who of everyone who wants to keep things just the way they are. Taxpayers have every right to be outraged.”

“The Governor’s acting in complicity with Reform Jersey Now’s blatant scheme to circumvent pay-to-play laws, while at the same time publicly supporting even more stringent ethical reforms, should be seen for what it is: a display of unbridled arrogance,” said Buono. “Under the Governor’s own definitions of what’s legal and illegal, it doesn’t take a former US attorney to figure out where on the radar these contributions land.”

In announcing its donors, Reform Jersey Now also said it was closing shop; Buono and Cryan said they hope it doesn’t take a year for them to disclose where any leftover funds were directed.