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Christie's Ethics Reforms Head in the Right Direction

Date : Wed, 8 Sep 2010 13:43:18 -0400

For Immediate Release

September 8, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, Director, 609-558-9100

Christie's Ethics Reforms Head in the Right Direction

The Sierra Club is applauding many of the initiatives included in Governor Christie's proposal for ethics reform released today. Tightening pay to play restrictions on contracting and requiring more transparency in government are good things that will help make government work more efficiently.

By helping to make government more transparent, it becomes more responsive and less beholden to special interests. The Sierra Club believes that without ethics reform, the environment will always be undermined because of backroom deals.

"We will never have a clean environment or deal with sprawl in New Jersey unless we have real ethics reform," said Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director. "For too long, the power of special interests has been used in New Jersey to undermine environmental protections. We have seen too many bad decisions made by the government when it comes to the environment because of a lack of strong ethics."

We're glad the Christie Administration is calling for standards on the legislative code of ethics. We believe that system is broken and must be fixed. We're pleased that the Governor is requiring more complete financial disclosure forms for legislators and their staff. This is an important step in the right direction. Requiring disclosure of all parties for whom compensation was received to promote, oppose or prepare legislation will help insure the integrity of legislative process.

We believe that Governor Christie's proposal is an important step in the right direction and that more discretion and mandatory recusal are important. We need to ensure that these standards are strict. Legislators often chair committees that oversee industries they work in or sponsor legislation that directly benefits their clients. This must change. Better ethics standards for legislators and a stronger ethics board that will actually enforce rules are important.

In the past, Senators James, Coniglio and Bryant were all found guilty of corruption in federal court but did not violate New Jersey's legislative ethics standards. That just goes to show the inadequacy of the current standards. Tightening these standards and implementing stricter legislative oversight is critical.

"The power of special interests, though campaign contributions, has pushed an agenda that has consistently undermined environmental protections in New Jersey," Tittel said. "In the last few years, developers and their allies in New Jersey have pushed more than a dozen pieces of legislation to undermine environmental protections, from the Permit Extension Act to Time of Decision"

While Christie's proposal goes after dual office holding at the local level, wheeling, and certain types of pay to play dealing with government contracts, what's missing is oversight of developer pay to play. Many developers and their attorneys and engineers at the state and local level use campaign contributions as a way to leverage support for specific legislation and politicians.

There must be a strict ban on developer pay to play to uphold the integrity of land use decisions at the local level and permitting decisions at the state level. Developers and their professionals should not be able to contribute money to political committees or individuals while seeking permits or land use approvals at boards or state agencies.

Because of developer pay to play we've seen scandals like Xanadu and EnCap. Indictments at the local level have occurred because of offers for campaign cash for development approval. With other pay to play restrictions working, monies from developers and their professionals and allies now have become the biggest source of political fundraising abuse.

"Time after time, local citizens get frustrated at the local when they see planning boards and local leaders take the side of developers over the citizens. With the loss of open space, more sprawl, flooding and higher property taxes, we have seen the consequences of those actions," Tittel said.

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <>  

Received on 2010-09-08 10:43:18

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at

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