Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. says ethics reform is only effective if it treats all parties equally. Kean has submitted legislation that would close what he feels is the most substantial loophole in New Jersey’s anti-pay to play law.

His legislation would apply the same restrictions on campaign contributions and activity that currently exist for other government service providers to labor unions under contract, including project-labor agreements, with state, county, or municipal government entities.

“Labor unions are no different than a legal or engineering firm: they negotiate contracts for services with elected officials,” says Kean. “In fact, labor unions receive among the largest government contracts given out year after year, yet are free to wield unparalleled financial influence in electing the very same people who sit opposite them at the bargaining table.”

According to New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), organized labor outspent the next closest interest group by a margin of 8-1 in the 2010 election cycle, and 17-1 during the 2009 gubernatorial and legislative election season. 11 of the 15 top spending special interest committees (PAC’s) identified by ELEC were run by unions in the 2010 election cycle. Local government entities spend well over 50% of their overall budgets on pay and benefits for their mostly unionized workforces.

“Campaign finance and ethics reform only works if it curtails all special interest groups equally and does not carve out any exceptions to benefit one party or another,” says Kean. “Pay to play reform was passed to limit the influence of big spending contractors over the public officials from whom they are trying to obtain work. That law missed one of the biggest recipients of public dollars and thus, must be fixed in the interest of fairness and honesty.”