Assemblyman GREGORY P. MCGUCKIN
District 10 (Ocean)
Assemblyman PAUL D. MORIARTY
District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)
Assemblyman ROBERT AUTH
District 39 (Bergen and Passaic)
Assemblywoman MARILYN PIPERNO
District 11 (Monmouth)
Senator JOSEPH P. CRYAN
District 20 (Union)
Assemblymen Space, Wirths, Catalano, McKeon and Senator Johnson
Establishes bribery in official and political matters applies to person soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept benefit as consideration to act even though not yet in office or otherwise qualified to act.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning certain acts of bribery in official and political matters, and amending N.J.S.2C:27-2.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. N.J.S.2C:27-2 is amended to read as follows:
2C:27-2. Bribery in Official and Political Matters. A person is guilty of bribery if he directly or indirectly offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another, or solicits, accepts or agrees to accept from another:
a. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or exercise of discretion of a public servant, party official or voter on any public issue or in any public election; or
b. Any benefit as consideration for a decision, vote, recommendation or exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding; or
c. Any benefit as consideration for a violation of an official duty of a public servant or party official; or
d. Any benefit as consideration for the performance of official duties.
For the purposes of this section [“benefit]:
“Benefit as consideration” shall be deemed to mean any benefit not authorized by law; and
“Public servant” shall, in addition to the definition set forth in subsection g. of N.J.S.2C:27-1, be deemed to mean any person who is a candidate for public office as defined under subsection c. of section 3 of P.L.1973, c.83 (C.19:44A-3), whose activities are subject to regulatory oversight by the Election Law Enforcement Commission, and any person elected but who has not yet assumed office.
It is no defense to prosecution under this section that a person whom the actor sought to offer, confer, or agreed to confer a benefit as consideration to influence, or a person who acted to solicit, accept, or agree to accept a benefit as consideration for influencing specifically on behalf of an individual benefit provider was not qualified to act in the desired way, whether because he had not yet assumed office, or lacked jurisdiction, or for any other reason.
In any prosecution under this section of an actor who offered, conferred or agreed to confer, or who solicited, accepted or agreed to accept a benefit, it is no defense that he did so as a result of conduct by another constituting theft by extortion or coercion or an attempt to commit either of those crimes.
The provisions of this section concerning a solicitation, acceptance, or agreement to accept a benefit as consideration for influencing shall not be deemed to apply to any public or general campaign speech, advertisement, or other campaign activity used to generate lawful campaign contributions in accordance with applicable State and federal law, including “The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act,” P.L.1973, c.83 (C.19:44A-1 et seq.).
Any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the second degree. If the benefit offered, conferred, agreed to be conferred, solicited, accepted or agreed to be accepted is of the value of $200.00 or less, any offense proscribed by this section is a crime of the third degree.
(cf: P.L.1979, c.178, s.48)
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill concerns the act of bribery in official and political matters. It establishes that a person would be guilty of such bribery if the person acted to solicit, accept, or agree to accept a benefit from another as consideration for taking future action, specifically on behalf of that benefit provider, even though the person had not yet assumed the public or political position needed to act or was not yet otherwise qualified to act. To clarify its application with respect to any candidates for elective public office, the bill expands the definition of “public servant,” a term used periodically under existing bribery laws, to include not just current officeholders, but any person who is a candidate for public office as defined under subsection c. of section 3 of P.L.1973, c.83 (C.19:44A-3), whose activities are subject to regulatory oversight by the Election Law Enforcement Commission, and any person elected but who has not yet assumed office.
Thus, for example, it would be a crime for a candidate for public office to seek out or accept a campaign contribution (the benefit) from an individual contributor as consideration to take future action, specifically on behalf of that contributor, as the officeholder to the position sought in the campaign. By focusing the act of bribery to a direct consideration between the candidate’s solicitation, acceptance, or agreement to accept a campaign contribution and the individual contributor, the bill intends to not criminalize the public and general campaign speeches and promises that generate lawful campaign contributions in accordance with applicable State and federal law, such as “The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act,” P.L.1973, c.83 (C.19:44A-1 et seq.). To that end, the provisions of the bill include language stating that the crime of bribery in official and political matters is inapplicable to “any public or general campaign speech, advertisement, or other campaign activity used to generate lawful campaign contributions.”
The bill would make the above described form of bribery a crime of the second degree, which is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both; however, if the benefit involved with the criminal act was valued at $200 or less, then the bribery would be a crime of the third degree, ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
The bill, in part, is intended to respond to the 2012 dismissal of a criminal indictment against a New Jersey mayoral candidate in the case of U.S. v. Manzo, 851 F. Supp.2d 797 (D.N.J. 2012). According to the indictment, the candidate accepted cash payments in exchange for promising to expedite a local development project and promote an individual within the municipal government if the candidate became mayor. Id., at 800. While the federal court found the alleged conduct “deeply objectionable” and “morally reprehensible,” Id., at 819, 829, it dismissed the indictment because the actions did not amount to criminal activity under New Jersey law. This bill would ensure that such future incidents involving persons seeking public or political office are punishable as criminal acts.