Court upholds pay-to-play law

The Superior Court’s Appellate Division today affirmed the constitutionality of an amendment to a law that bans state agencies from awarding contracts to companies that have donated over $300 to gubernatorial candidates and county political parties.

An amendment to the 2005 Campaign Contributions and Expenditure Reporting Act was challenged by Earle Asphalt, which had put in the lowest bid for roadwork on a section of Interstate 195. But after the company revealed that it had donated $1,500 to the Monmouth County Republican Committee at the request of former Senate President John Bennett, its bid was rejected by the Department of Transportation.

The law states that a refund must be received within 30 days of making the contribution for the company to remain eligible for contract work. The company had tried to get a refund soon after making the contribution — after Republican fundraiser T. Robin Visconi raised the issue – but was not able to get it until 41 days had passed.

The company said that it contacted Bennett multiple times about securing the refund. Bennett blamed the delay on "several layers of individuals that were involved[,]" and said that the Republican State Committee "does not have a full time Treasurer nor a full time fundraiser."

The company argued that, since it attempted to get a refund before 30 days had passed, it should still have been eligible for the contract work. Moreover, the argued that the amendment violated “its constitutional rights of free speech and association.”

Judges Skillman, Winkelstein and LeWinn rejected both arguments Court upholds pay-to-play law