NJ Spotlight is continuing its annual summer reading series. Every day the news website features an excerpt from a recent book — from nonfiction to novels to poetry – with a New Jersey connection.
Soft corruption is the type of influence peddling that’s perfectly legal – but unethical. And New Jersey politicians are masters of it. Former state Sen. Bill Schluter, well-known as an ethics crusader, explains what every New Jersey politician knows but you probably don’t: how to have money change hands for political benefit without breaking laws. Schluter even offers a solution for it, for those that want to take up the crusade. In this excerpt, Schluter gets into the details of the many ways New Jerseyans have bought influence while skirting the law.
Excerpt from Soft Corruption: How Unethical Conduct Undermines Good Government and What To Do About It, published February 24, 2017 by Rutgers University Press.
A wealthy sculptor with family problems makes generous campaign contributions in the hope of influencing legislators to enact a law that will help him stop his daughter from receiving a share of the family inheritance. He nearly succeeds. A state legislator dips into his publicly funded office budget to pay the assistant editor of his district’s largest newspaper $2,000 for unspecified general services. The speaker of the state assembly invites lobbyists to contribute $1,500 to her reelection campaign in exchange for the opportunity to talk with her about “your concerns and those of your clients.” Employing an unwritten but tradition-honored practice, a senator single-handedly blocks the governor’s highly qualified nominee for commissioner of education from even coming up for a confirmation vote. A longtime legislator, defeated on Election Day, is handed a position at the state’s parole board, at more than double his legislative salary. He leaves the job a year later, as soon as the resulting 78 percent bump to his state pension takes effect. His response to critics: “If anybody don’t like it, that’s too bad. Let them go spend thirty-three years in office.”