Watching the latest eleven arrests to come out of U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s office last week, I can’t help but wonder when NJ voters are going to say “enough is enough” when it comes to public corruption. Perhaps New Jerseyans are numb to the arrests at this point, but other states don’t regularly see public officials indicted for bribery and misuse of public funds. Watchdog groups estimate that $1 billion dollars are wasted every year in New Jersey on pay-to-play and related misuse of public funds. That’s $1 billion that could be reducing our debt, replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund, or hopefully someday, reducing taxes. Why has New Jersey accepted this behavior? Why are there not protests in the streets and radical shifts at the ballot box? Why do officials suspected of corruption continue to get elected here?
There are some common sense steps that we can take now to root out this corruption. The bill Governor Corzine signed last week banning dual office holding exempted those who currently hold dual offices – an unbelievable conflict of interest that shouldn’t be allowed. In signing the bill, Corzine agreed that it didn’t go far enough – now I hope that he will keep the pressure on the leaders of his party, which control both houses of the legislature, to pass stricter ethics reforms.
U.S. Attorney Christie has done an excellent job of investigating and indicting those who are breaking the law and stealing from our coffers. But he and his staff cannot do the job alone: New Jerseyans need to voice their opposition, to vote this fall and in every election to show corrupt officials that they will no longer be tolerated. I hope New Jerseyans will join me this November, and in the future elections, in voting out those in power who have allowed this behavior to continue.
It is simply unacceptable to have public officials stealing funds from the hard-working and over-taxed citizens of New Jersey. It must stop. Period.