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January 14, 2005

Bush Admin Promotes Corruption in NJ

My boyhood home, New Jersey, is known for a tad bit of, err, irregular financial dealings with public contracts. So former Governor McGreevey issued an executive order last fall to restrict the "pay to play" practices in the state to discourage the issuing of public contracts to political contributors to policians in the state.

But the Federal Highway Administration is apparently punishing the state for the rules, withholding $347 million in federal funds, claiming that the rules undermine federal competitive bidding requirements. New Jersey has filed suit to block these federal actions.

I'm waiting for the details but this is part of a general conservative strategy of claiming that government restrictions on who receives public contracts -- whether anti-corruption rules or living wage laws -- interfere with the "free market" which should only worry about the lowest bid made. Massachusetts rules that prohibited purchasing of goods from Burma were struck down by the Supreme Court as impinging on foreign policy. A California law prohibiting state funds going to contractors using those funds to bust unions was struck down as conflicting with the National Labor Relations Act. Even more quietly, an international General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) is being negotiated that would further restrict state and local ability to regulate their own public contracting.

As larger and larger portions of public money are distributed through private contractors, this is a covert strategy to destroy public accountbility over those funds and impose neoclassical free market principles on how those funds are spent in the name of "competitive bidding" rules. A nasty trend that progressives need to be fighting every step of the way.

Posted by Nathan at January 14, 2005 06:33 AM