Bribery of political candidates may soon become illegal, closing a long-standing loophole that for years has excluded candidates and elected officials who have not yet taken the oath from corruption laws.

Bills passed by committees in both the Senate and the Assembly provide for the application of bribery laws to candidates for public office and elected officials who have not yet taken office.

“The law should be clear and final that government officials and those seeking public office will be punished for trying to sell the integrity of the civil service,” said Senator Joseph Krayan, D-Union, who sponsored the Senate bill. C-510.

Henal Patel, director of the Democracy and Justice Program at the Institute of Social Justice in New Jersey, said the bill was needed to ensure that New Jersey had a “working, prosperous democracy.”

“The current law distinguishes bribery of elected officials from bribery of candidates for office – and allows the latter,” Patel said. “This is pointless and bad for democracy. This law – which closes this gap – is an important measure in building greater public confidence in our system and strengthening our electoral process. “

Senator Mike Test (right) speaks with Senator Joseph Krayan (left) during the debate on Bill S-2021 in the Senate House at the Trenton State House on September 24, 2020.

An example of this loophole is breaking through the courts right now.

Jason O’Donnell, a former MP who ran for mayor of Bayonne in 2018, was arrested in 2019 and charged by then-Attorney General Gurbir Greval in a meeting with a lawyer who allegedly gave him cash and said he wanted to be hired. around the city.

At the time, O’Donnell’s lawyer, Leo Hurley, did not acknowledge that the exchange took place, but in court documents argued that O’Donnell could not be accused of bribery because he was a private citizen when he ran for mayor in 2018. “Danel lost this race.

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