More pay-to-play issues in South Jersey; Moorestown looking to allow much bigger campaign contributions

Moorestown Township Council will hold a public hearing tonight in a controversial move to increase the political campaign-contributions threshold for businesses looking to contract with the township.

The campaign contribution limits currently in the Moorestown code are similar to those set forth in Camden's pay-to-play ordinance. The ordinance, if passed, would increase the amount a business entity could donate from $300 in the year preceding a given contract to $2,600. It would also increase the maximum amount allowed to be donated to Moorestown Township party committees or to any political action committee (PAC) to $7,200, up from $300 and $500 respectively.

Moorestown current law and suggested changes have been criticized by campaign-finance-reform advocate the Citizens Campaign.

Camden is currently under scrutiny by the state Comptroller's Office for not following its own ordinance when it came to choosing audit firms this year. Voorhees-based auditing firm Bowman & Co. LLP recently withdrew its bid from being appointed Camden’s municipal auditor because the city’s pay-to-play ordinance indicated that the company would have been over the allowed contribution limit.

Bowman's withdrawl came after thestate Comptroller's Office opened and inqury into the matter, following the Inquirer's questions on the amount and timing of Bowman's contributions to the Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd re-election campaign and South Jersey-based Democratic political action committee (PAC) Leader's Fund. A Bowman spokeswoman said the company was over the contribution limit for accounting-related PACs.

"The City ordinance, which is now being applied to the auditor appointment, includes restrictions on contributions made to PACs outside the City of Camden. Several partners have made individual contributions to accounting industry-specific PACs, which resulted in our voluntary withdrawal,"  Bowman spokeswoman Sarah Lindsay said last week.

The company, which in 2011 and 2012 audited the township's fire district, declined to comment on the proposed changes to the Moorestown pay-to-play limits.

The Moorestown ordinanceis scheduled to be heard for public comment at Monday's township council meeting to be held at 7:30 p.m. in the IT Room of Moorestown High School, 350 Bridgeboro Rd. The council could either put the measure up for a vote Monday or table it for future action. (Click HERE to review proposed ordinance)