One of the likely Republican contenders for his party’s 2017 gubernatorial nomination is weighing in in favor of a call from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) for a federal investigation of the NJEA, one of state Democrats’ most prominent fundraising sources. Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) said Wendesday that he supports mounting state and federal investigations into whether the NJEA illegally held campaign contributions hostage.
Following revelations that the teachers’ union threatened to withhold campaign contributions to county Democratic organizations until Sweeney posted a bill that would constitutionally mandate quarterly payments into New Jersey’s underfunded public pension system, Sweeney wrote to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and N.J. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino requesting state and federal inquiries.
Saying that he supports the “honest, rank-and-file, middle-class teachers” that the NJEA represents, Ciattarelli said “a potentially criminal quid pro quo involving political contributions and public policy” warrants the feds’ attention.
“Given New Jersey’s perilous fiscal situation, how can we possibly point our state on the right path forward with much-needed reforms – school funding, public employee benefits and property taxes – if special interests exert this kind of power and influence? I support Senate President Sweeney’s call for state and federal authorities to commence an investigation,” he said.
Sweeney is weighing his own gubernatorial bid, despite bad blood between him and the state’s public sector unions over his move to compromise with Governor Chris Christie and allow cuts to pension benefits.