Sweeney calls on both parties to forego donations from state cleanup contractors
By Darryl R. Isherwood | February 19th, 2013 - 4:27pm
| More

Senate President Steve Sweeney is asking lawmakers, candidates and committees on both sides of the aisle to forego any campaign contributions from firms involved in the clean-up of Superstorm Sandy.

Sweeney believes that between questions that have arisen over the contracting for the clean-up and the nature of the storm itself, nobody involved in government should be profiting, Sweeney said today.

"This was a tragedy in this state and nobody should be profiting," Sweeney said in an interview.  "My objection is there are a whole lot of questions about how these contracts were issued and how the connections (to local governments) were made, so I feel strongly that nobody should be accepting donations from these companies."

Sweeney's proposal comes after several stories in the Star Ledger and elsewhere about the contract awarded to the Florida-based AshBritt for debris removal after the storm.  The state piggy-backed on a contract AshBritt had with the state of Connecticut.  AshBritt in turn hired subcontractors - including both in-state and out of state firms - to do the cleanup.

Among the firms hired by AshBritt to oversee the work was Conti Enterprises, a New Jersey-based construction firm.

Conti has given heavily to Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Sweeney had initially called on Kean to pledge that he would not accept donations from the group.  But after a story on PolitickerNJ detailed Conti's contributions to lawmakers and committees on both sides of the aisle, Sweeney doubled down, calling on all involved in the political process to avoid donations from AshBritt or any contractor.

"As representatives, we have to set the example.  We have to provide assurance to those we serve that at the end of the day, this is about rebuilding New Jersey better and stronger, not filling campaign coffers," Sweeney said.

But though Sweeney pledged that the Senate leadership PAC wouldn't accept donations from the cleanup firms, those in his own party were a little less enthusiastic.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono said she would abide by state campaign finance laws, however, the state statute banning pay to play was waived because of the state of emergency and it's unclear if it covers donations going forward.  Subcontractors such as Conti are not covered by the law.

"Too many questions still surround the selection process that awarded AshBritt a contract to clean up the Hurricane Sandy debris. Our campaign always has followed New Jersey's election laws and will continue to decline any donations from individuals or companies prohibited from contributing to state campaigns," said David Turner, a spokesman for the Buono campaign

Democratic State Committee Chairman John Wisniewski said he would seek more information and call back.  He didn't.  

Republicans also had a difficult time with it.

The state Republican Party did not return a call or email for comment.

Reached by phone for comment, Senate Republican spokesman Adam Bauer called Sweeney's demands a "temper tantrum that does not warrant a response."

“It strains credulity that Senator (Paul) Sarlo is going to sit on the sidelines this year after bankrolling the Bergen campaigns in 2011, and he’s an AshBritt subcontractor.  It is simply laughable that Senator Buono will forgo (Democratic Governors Association) assistance this year in her gubernatorial campaign, and the DGA gets truckloads of AshBritt cash.”

Sarlo works for Sanzari Inc., one of the subcontractors hied by AshBritt. AshBritt has given heavily to both the DGA and the Republican Governors Association and both groups are expected to play heavily in this year's contest.

Called for comment on whether Gov. Chris Christie's campaign would forego donations from the subcontractors, a spokesman said the governor also would abide by all state pay to play laws, but also did not address donations from the subcontractors.

“The governor’s campaign has always and will always comply with all of New Jersey’s election laws, and we expect all other campaigns and committees will do the same," said spokesman Mike DuHaime.

The Back Room

Sweeney goes on offense

Days after Jersey City Mayor (and 2017 gubernatorial hopeful) Steve Fulop declared his support and fundraising devotion to South Jersey Congressional candidate Bill Hughes, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) see-sawed onto Fulop's turf with his own "I can find pockets of love in every part of this state including JC" statement.

Read More >

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: April 18, 2014

Fulop endorses Smith in Bayonne mayoral raceBAYONNE - Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop parachuted into the Bayonne mayoral race on Thursday night by endorsing incumbent Mayor Mark Smith."It is a pleasure to be with you here, Mark," said Fulop to a crowd of more than 125 supporters at a...

Op-Ed

How the City of Paterson became a city in crisis

By HAYTHAM YOUNES As the May 13th election for Paterson officials nears, I've noticed a lot of candidates running using slogans and empty promises as if they weren't around watching Paterson get to where it's at today. I think it's important that... Read More >

Contributors

(4-16-14) New Jersey Vote By Mail Law - The voter turnout for New Jersey’s November gubernatorial election was the lowest since the days of prohibition, coming... more »
When it comes to profiling Christie, facts are for wussies (4/10/14) - As the national media stories on our Guv pile up, expect more blunders about the Garden State.... more »
This week I begin a series called Dispatches from Somewhere Else. Based on my on-going experiences as an everyman in New Jersey politics, these Dispatches review the hollowness of... more »
Watching Governor Chris Christie's shocking BridgeGate implosion, it's easy to forget the time when he truly seemed unstoppable.  Blessed with incredible political gifts and a Jersey bluster to match,... more »

Quote of the Day

Quote of the day

"This is my first Mark Smith event. There have been a lot of changes in Hudson County over the last year and a half, and the most important change that has happened is that there really is unity. For the first time, we really are working together. Despite political differences. Mark and I have worked very hard to repair that. I'm really happy to be here in support of him, because I recognize that when you work together, politics becomes secondary and you really have time to focus on government, which is the most important thing." - Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop

- PolitickerNJ.com

Poll

Was Frank X. Graves of Paterson New Jersey's best mayor?:

Resources

Visit the PolitickerNJ.com/resources page for links to the best collection of information on New Jersey state government.

 

  • Polls
  • The best blogs
  • Columnists
  • State election results
  • Assembly election results
  • Local party websites
  • And more.

PolitickerNJ.com/resources