The Assembly State and Local Government Committee today unanimously advanced a perennially sidelined bill that would make existing bribery statutes apply to candidates for office; under current law, only those who hold elected office can be charged with bribery.
The impetus for the legislation was the dismissal of two highly similar bribery cases against two former assemblymen, both Hudson County Democrats who waged failed campaigns for mayor.
In 2009, former Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-Jersey City) was accused of accepting bribes during his run for mayor of Jersey City, and in 2019, former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne) was charged by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal with bribery during his run for Bayonne mayor; both cases were dismissed because neither assemblyman held office during their respective campaigns.
“I just think that’s wrong,” Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River), the bill’s sponsor, told the New Jersey Monitor. “You can bribe them before they’re sworn in, and that makes it legal? That just seems ludicrous to me.”
This session marks McGuckin’s sixth attempt at getting the bill passed, and the first time he has had a glimmer of success. Alongside former Assemblymen David Wolfe (R-Brick) and Gary Chiusano (R-Frankford), McGuckin first introduced the bill in May 2012, shortly after Manzo’s charges had been dropped, and has reintroduced it in every session since.
Last session, McGuckin was joined by State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), who brought an identical bill to the Senate, but neither came before a committee; today’s 4-0 vote marks the first time the legislation has ever been put to a vote.