Please Fix This, Steve Sweeney


Is something rotten on the menu at Sweeney’s big Convention Breakfast this Wednesday?


Scott Garrett is long-serving NJ Congressman with perhaps the worst anti-LGBT voting record in Congress. Not once in his 16 year career, did Congressman Garrett miss an opportunity to deprive LGBT people of their liberties. On issues like marriage and adoption, anti-bullying and HIV/AIDS, Garrett employs a (very un-Christian) interpretation of the Bible to oppress gays. Likewise, gays are constitutionally unfit for elected office in Garrett’s book. He even supports “pray-the-gay-away” conversion therapy.

Despite his fringe views on social issues, Garrett clings to his seat in Congress thanks mostly to the gerrymandered contours of his district. Garrett also relies heavily on big contributions from blue chip donors eager to curry favor with members of the Budget- and Financial Services Committees (where he’s chairman.)

Bloomberg:  “Garrett’s committee is vital to Wall Street. In Washington, the committee is known as the ATM, because banks and hedge funds shower the chairman with contributions. After the Dodd-Frank financial law forced hedge funds to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Garrett, already the recipient of more Wall Street money than almost any other member of the House, got millions more. The banks pay to have a voice, ensure they’re at the table when new rules are discussed, and insinuate themselves into the chairman’s good graces.”

“The rules of the road for handling money and anything with the SEC go through this committee,” says Marcus Stanley, policy director of the nonprofit Americans for Financial Reform. “There’s a ton of money at stake.”

Garrett’s bigoted track record caught up with him after he publicly refused to support a fellow GOP candidate who was gay. Amid pressure from LGBT activists and a series of unflattering headlines (Wall Street Money Dries Up for Lawmaker After Anti-Gay Remarks and Why do these N.J. companies still fund homophobe Scott Garrett?) Garrett’s donors began to reevaluate. State Farm Insurance, USBS Bank, PNC Bank, and Goldman Sachs reversed course and withdrew support. It may be a principled stance but let’s be honest, those firms all know bigotry is bad for business.

However some Garrett supporters stuck by their man, including PSE&G, the largest power company in NJ. Per their spokesperson, “while we know that there are many critical social and human rights issues confronting the country today, our employees fund the PAC to support our business agenda, So, we focus solely on business issues when making PAC contributions.”

Openly gay-NJ Assemblyman Tim Eustace was having none of it.

“The spark of successful business is happy customers not bigoted leaders,” Eustace told PolitickerNJ. “We hope PSE&G sees the light. We pay the bills, they should be paying attention.”

In their desire to have the cake and eat it too, PSE&G is also a major sponsor of the upcoming DNC convention in Philly, including Constitutional Sponsorship of NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney’s delegate breakfast meeting on Wednesday.

The last thing Steve Sweeney needs is (yet) another Big Gay Headache. So he’s lucky there’s still time to iron this out and avoid him having justify to a room filled with hardcore democrats why he’s sharing a stage with someone who enables Scott Garrett’s bigotry as part of their “business agenda.”
Here are some suggestions how I’d fix this:

  • 1) PSE&G should promptly contribute (“max out”)  to Garrett’s democratic rival, Josh Gottheimer. While they’ve got their checkbook out, why not also contribute to Garden State Equality’s action fund that’s used to defeat anti-LGBT types just like Garrett? At the very least, this ameliorates some of the damage PSE&G’s already done.
  • 2) Steve Sweeney, whose high-profile breakfast was sponsored by a company who underwrites bigotry in Congress, should do the same thing. Ditto Sweeney’s leadership PAC and his Gloucester County Democratic Committee. Why not be extra generous?
  • 3) In solidarity with NJ’s LGBT community, Celebrate New Jersey Now, an unsuspecting (?) host of Sweeney’s shindig, should also break out their checkbook for equality. Unlike Sweeney’s whose spotty LGBT record leaves him vulnerable to these criticisms, the folks at Celebrate NJ Now have an unimpeachable record on LGBT matters. But still…..
  • 4) Go a little overboard on hospitality. Serve some healthy food at this breakfast. I’m already sick of carbs. (You’re welcome for that one.)

In an email to PolitickerNJ, gay Rahway Councilman Bob Bresenhan Jr offered a more pointed solution for the prickly PSE&G issue:

“NJ Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie and Senate President Steve Sweeney need to condemn PSE&G’s funding of a bigot, renounce these events, and withdraw the invitation for PSE&G until its Chairman Ralph Izzo ceases funding NJ’s civil rights enemy #1 Scott Garrett. I do not believe PSE&G would offer financial support to any candidate who marginalized another segment of the community like African-Americans, women, Latinos, the physically challenged and so on.”

This unfortunate (but easily manageable) hot potato is now squarely in Steve Sweeney’s hands.
(For the record, PSEG gets a nice, fat check delivered monthly from my [gay] address for services rendered. And in a delicious twist of fate: our power’s presently out and I’m only posting this column thanks to my trusty Honda generation whirring away in the background.) Please Fix This, Steve Sweeney