September 29, 2022

NJ bill prohibiting political candidates from accepting bribes now in Murphy’s hands

Now it’s up to the governor. Phil Murphy to decide whether bribing a person running for political office should be a crime in New Jersey.

The state Legislature on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would close a loophole that effectively allows candidates who do not hold public office to accept a bribe. Courts have ruled in two separate cases that former members of the Assembly could not have been convicted of bribery because they technically lacked the authority to fulfill their part of the deal when they accepted the money.

The law project, A2472cleared the State Assembly without discussion by a vote of 74-0 and the State Senate by a vote of 37-0.

Assemblyman Gregory McGuckin, R-Ocean, introduced the legislation after former Assemblyman Louis Manzo was accused of accepting a cash bribe in exchange for political favors during from his 2009 campaign for mayor of Jersey City.

The charges were dismissed by a judge, and McGuckin’s legislation languished for a decade.

But he received new attention after prosecutors accused former Democratic MP Jason O’Donnell in 2019 of accepting a $10,000 cash payment during his campaign for mayor of Bayonne in exchange for the pledge. the person, who was a government informant, to work if O’Donnell was elected.

O’Donnell’s attorney argued during the criminal case that his client was not a public official. On the contrary, he was “just a candidate for mayor of the city of Bayonne”. Again, a judge agreed and dismissed the case in 2021.

“Tenth year is the charm,” McGuckin said before Assembly lawmakers voted on the bill.

The measure expands the definition of “public official” in New Jersey’s anti-corruption laws to include candidates for public office and anyone who has won an election but has not yet been sworn in.

“Courts have quashed or dismissed bribery cases because they have interpreted current bribery laws as not applying to election candidates,” said Sen. Joseph Cryan, D-Union, lead sponsor of the bill in the upper house, in a statement. “It’s the legislator’s job to make the law and make it clear that bribery before the results of an election is still bribery.”

Those convicted of accepting a bribe could face five to 10 years behind bars and be fined up to $150,000, Cryan’s office said.

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matt arco can be attached to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MatthieuArco.