TRENTON - The federal prosecutor who busted more than 130 corrupt politicians became governor based in part on New Jerseyans' belief, and hope, that he could clean up government.
But despite a sweeping ethics package that Republican Gov. Christie proposed in his first year in office - and despite continued political corruption in all corners of government - Trenton during the Christie administration is where ethics reforms have gone to die.
None of the governor's ethics proposals dating to September 2010 have been passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. That means state workers can still collect a public salary and public pension at the same time. Campaign contributions can still be intentionally hidden by funneling money from one political group to another. And criminally convicted public officials can still keep part of their pensions.
With three New Jersey mayors arrested in the last year - and seven executives of a government contractor charged just last month - corruption isn't going away.
Though there are plenty of proposals to tighten the rules, more than a dozen such bills - mostly from Republicans, but some with bipartisan support - are languishing without debate.
To read the rest of my story in Sunday's paper about ethics, click here.
And check out my list of just SOME of the bills stuck in the Legislature:
- Mandate insurance companies perform actual services to be paid with tax dollars.
- Mandate public officials convicted of a crime give up their entire pensions.
- Empower State Ethics Commission to adjudicate complaints about school board and local government violations.
- Forbid officials from lobbying the town in which they serve.
- Prohibit “wheeling,” in which one county party sends money to another county party to hide the source of the cash.
- Subject regional “authorities” — such as sewer entities — to oversight from the governor.
- Forbid legislators from being paid for legislative work while getting paid for other public employment.
- Forbid legislators from holding another elected office, such as mayor.
- Expand officials’ financial disclosure statements to include legislators’ and their relatives’ public contracts and compensation.
- Mandate disclosures of donors to “issue advocacy” groups that campaign for or against candidates.
- Require public officials to resign if convicted of certain offenses.
- Forbid public employees from retiring, collecting a pension, and then getting a new public job with an additional salary.
- Require candidates to keep detailed records of how they spend campaign funds.