Section: Findings, declarations relative to certain campaign contributions by business entities.
1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
In our representative form of government, it is essential that individuals who are elected to public office have the trust, respect and confidence of the citizenry; and
All individuals, businesses, associations, and other persons have a right to participate fully in the political process of New Jersey, including making and soliciting contributions to candidates, political parties and holders of public office; and
When a person or business interest makes or solicits major contributions to obtain a contract awarded by a government agency or independent authority, this constitutes a violation of the public's trust in government and raises legitimate public concerns about whether the contract has been awarded on the basis of merit; and
The growing infusion of funds donated by business entities into the political process at all levels of government has generated widespread cynicism among the public that special interest groups are "buying" favors from elected officeholders; and
For the purposes of protecting the integrity of government contractual decisions and of improving the public's confidence in government, it is a compelling interest of this State to prohibit awarding government contracts to business entities which are also contributors to candidates, political parties and the holders of public office; and
There exists the perception that campaign contributions are often made to a State or county political party committee by an individual or business seeking favor with State elected officials, with the understanding that the money given to such a committee will be transmitted to other committees in other parts of the State, or is otherwise intended to circumvent legal restrictions on the making of political contributions or gifts directly to elected State officials, thus again making elected State officials beholden to those contributors; and
County political party committees, through their powers of endorsement, fundraising, ballot slogan or party line designation, and other means, exert significant influence over the gubernatorial primary and general election process; and
Although the right of individuals and businesses to make campaign contributions is unequivocal, that right may be limited, even abrogated, when such contributions promote the actuality or appearance of public corruption; and
It is essential that the public have confidence that the selection of State contractors is based on merit and not on political contributions made by such contractors and it is essential that the public have trust in the processes by which taxpayer dollars are spent; and
It has long been the public policy of this State to secure for the taxpayers the benefits of competition, to promote the public good by promoting the honesty and integrity of bidders for public contracts and the system, and to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance and corruption in order to benefit the taxpayers; and
In the procurement process, our public policy grants to the State broad discretion, taking into consideration all factors, to award a contract to a bidder whose proposal will be most advantageous to the State; and
The operations of the State government must be effectively and fairly managed to ensure public order and prosperity, and malfeasance, in whatever form it may take, must be confronted and uprooted; and
The Legislature must safeguard the integrity of State government procurement by imposing restrictions on State agencies and independent authorities to insulate the negotiation and award of State contracts from political contributions that pose the risk of improper influence, purchase of access, or the appearance thereof.
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