The one reform that would change everything
Ever wonder why a county official who claims to love his county turns around and votes in a way that harms it? Ever wonder why an anti-tax Republican suddenly supports a Democrat tax-hike? Ever wonder why some politicians appear to vacillate between competing interests?
Usually, it comes down to money.
Sometimes you can follow the money. In some cases, you can actually match up the change in an elected official's voting pattern with the change in who funds his or her campaign. And when you do, it is more than a little shocking. The drip, drip, dripping away of principled support for, or opposition to, some policy is replaced by the growing financial support from this interest group or that.
Sometimes the change appears sudden and radical, like when Senate President Steve Sweeney flip-flopped on the death penalty, same-sex marriage, and the Second Amendment. But take a long look at the cumulative effect of those contributions and you will see that drip, drip, dripping away of moral resolve. The train might take a long time to reach the station and you might not know it has until the whistle blows, but when it arrives it is jam-packed with hot, sweaty, money.
Often, too often, you can't follow the money. Because in New Jersey, while an elected official must report his or her source of income -- like High Street Consulting for example -- the state does not require elected officials to report the "clients" of High Street Consulting. If we knew who the clients of High Street Consulting were, we would know more about why the elected official who owns it behaves the way he does. Under the current reporting requirements, an elected official with a firm like High Street Consulting could take money from a questionable source, something that would place him or her in a conflict of interest, and nobody would be the wiser.
Reforming this would shed light on the political alliances that tug an elected official this way or that.
Washington State has such a law. For every business interest held, the state's Public Disclosure Commission requires public officials to list each corporation, partnership, joint venture, sole proprietorship, union, association, business or other commercial entity and each government agency that paid compensation to the entity. It also requires what property, goods, services or other consideration was given or performed for the compensation.
This is real disclosure and it is desperately needed everywhere in New Jersey, but especially in the interdependent, incestuous political community of Sussex County.