Bergen County Adopts Pay-to-Play Ordinance

January 20, 2012

Bergen County recently joined the numerous counties in New Jersey in restricting government contracting opportunities for business entities that make political contributions.  Bergen’s “pay-to-play” ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2012. Under the Ordinance, covered individuals or entities may make or solicit contributions of no more than $300 per year to a covered recipient if the associated business entity wishes to maintain eligibility for contracting with Bergen County.  “Covered recipients “ include: (i) any candidate or holder of elected office in Bergen County; (ii) any campaign committee of a candidate or holder of public office in Bergen County; (iii) any Bergen County party committee; (iv) any municipal party committee within Bergen County; (v) any candidate committee, state or county political party committee, legislative leadership committee, continuing political committee or political action committee (PAC) organized under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, that has within the past year provided financial or in-kind support to any candidates for Bergen County municipal elections or candidates for Bergen County elections.    The Ordinance also contains a $2,500 annual aggregate limit to all covered recipients for any group of individuals or entity associated with the business entity.  For a business entity, both the per recipient and the aggregate limitations on contributions to covered recipients commence at the time of the first public announcement or solicitation of a request for proposals by the County of Bergen and continue through the term of the contract, if awarded to the business entity. The Bergen Ordinance’s prohibition provisions are similar to many of the other county and municipal ordinances in New Jersey.  Unlike many other local ordinances, however, the Bergen County Ordinance contains comprehensive disclosure requirements.  For example, the Bergen County Ordinance requires disclosure of contributions in any amount to Federal and state officeholders representing the County of Bergen.  Care must be taken, therefore, to maintain compliance given the subtle distinctions that often occur in language and/or interpretation among various local ordinances.

Tag: New Jersey