Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop just saw his own municipal pay-to-play ordinance signed into law by the city council on Tuesday. The next day, Gov. Corzine outlined a sweeping ethics reform package that, if passed, Fulop thinks will strengthen the one that Jersey City just enacted.
The Governor’s plan covers banning contributions to municipal officials from redevelopers. That, Fulop said, was part of his original plan, but he was advised that it wouldn’t pass muster in a legal challenge because of state laws favoring redevelopers– so he dropped it.
“For us in Jersey City, I think the Governor’s would certainly be stricter because it would affect redevelopment, which would give us more stringent pay-to-play laws,” said Fulop.
Fulop concedes that his other proposed reform initiative – which bans city council members from receiving more than one public salary – will not likely make it onto the ballot in November. The initiative has been tied up in court since Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis challenged the number of signatures required to get it on the ballot.
“I’m going to get this thing done. There’s more than one way to achieve it. If it’s not going to be done in November, we’ll take it from there,” he said.
Some of the earliest criticism lobbed at Corzine’s ethics reform package sounds familiar to the criticism Fulop faced over his anti-pay-to-play initiative – that it severely limits resources for candidates of more modest means, while well-off candidates can still make unlimited contributions to their own campaigns.
“Basically what you’re saying is that the only way a person can raise money is by dangling municipal and state benefits in front of people, which is exactly what Corzine is trying to stop,” said Fulop. “It’s the same thing that Healy said about me – I don’t agree with them then, and I don’t agree with it about Corzine.”
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who’s also the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, could not be reached for comment on how he felt about Corzine’s ethics package.
Although it may hamper Healy in his role as county chairman, it’s not likely to affect his pursuit of campaign funds, since he already has $1 million in the bank. But if State Sen. Sandi Cunningham and Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith decide to run for mayor, measures putting a stricter ban on developer contributions may affect their fundraising apparatuses.
Fulop, who is likely to self-fund a significant portion of his own likely mayoral campaign, could find his quest complicated by the national economic downturn. His day job is as a Wall Street trader, and he admits that his pocketbook will likely take a hit.
But Fulop noted that he plans to finish this quarter with $200,000 in the bank before he donates any money to himself.
“I’d be disingenuous to say that all this turmoil doesn’t have a financial impact on people, but it’s not going to change what I’m doing next year,” he said.