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News & Press: Pension

Sweeney Accuses Unions of Threats and Bribery Over Pension Funding

Friday, August 5, 2016   (0 Comments)
Share | 08/05/16

In a highly unusual move, the state Legislature’s top Democratic official, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, took a big swing yesterday at New Jersey’s most powerful public employee union, the New Jersey Education Association. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) accused officials at the NJEA and a top police-union representative of bribery, saying they’ve threatened to hold back campaign contributions unless the Senate moves within the next few days to ensure a proposed constitutional amendment seeking voter approval of beefed-up state pension contributions makes it onto the ballot this fall.

The longtime Senate leader also sent letters to both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office to report alleged intimidation tactics by the teachers’ union that he said “cross the line from lobbying to attempted bribery and conspiracy.” In addition to lobbing accusations at NJEA officials, Sweeney said the president of the state Fraternal Order of Police left him a voicemail in recent days making clear that future campaign contributions are at stake. “I think laws have been violated,” Sweeney said during a news conference at the State House yesterday.

 Sweeney did not put the amendment up for a vote during Monday’s Senate session, saying it has unfortunately been dragged into the ongoing impasse with Christie over renewing the state’s nearly broke Transportation Trust Fund. Without knowing how the transportation-funding stalemate will be resolved, and at what cost, Sweeney said it would be irresponsible to put the amendment on the ballot if the state can’t afford to fund it.

Sweeney, during the news conference yesterday, also pointed to the message left for him by Fox, the police union official. He went on to cite both state and federal anti-bribery laws, as well as a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on a corruption case involving the former governor of Virginia that he said specifically referred to what constitutes bribery. Sweeney took offense to what he called bullying by the union officials. But he also said the linking of the vote on the pension amendment to campaign contributions goes beyond simple free speech or lobbying. “I’m blown away that they could make these kinds of threats,” Sweeney said.

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