“The companies that join Choose New Jersey contribute $450,000 and we expect a return on that investment.”
That’s a quote about the creation of a new nonprofit corporation attributed to John Bigelow, president of the New Jersey division of American Water, a company that has 2.5 million customers in 17 New Jersey counties.
The “return on investment” American Water expects is clearly lower taxes for corporations and, ultimately, fewer services for the rest of us.
Choose New Jersey is a new corporate-funded 501(c)(3) which is being championed by Governor Christie as the state’s cheerleader for doing business in New Jersey. Every nonprofit (and even some for-profits) envies Choose New Jersey because of its funding – 14 corporations have committed a total of $2.1 million a year for the next three years to capitalize the group’s operations. The chair of its board is New Jersey Verizon president Dennis Bone. The organization’s 16 board members are mostly presidents or CEOs of private corporations, almost all of whom earn million-dollar salaries. Nine of the 14 corporations currently have contracts with the state; four of them have received business subsidies totaling $216 million.
The organization is said to have its genesis in the transition team report delivered to Governor Christie by his Subcommittee on Economic Development & Job Growth.
The impact of the subcommittee’s report cannot be ignored. Many of the legislative changes on the fast track this month can be found there. What is compelling about this report and fascinating about what’s going on in the Legislature right now is that no analysis accompanies most of the policy recommendations. Democrats and Republicans alike have bought into the notion that reducing public resources by cutting taxes and eliminating regulations will make New Jersey more competitive. There seems to be little interest in the fact that less revenue means fewer public services.
Fourteen corporations have committed a total of $6.3 million to this nonprofit corporation for the next three years. This nonprofit won’t be providing medical services to poor people or after school programs for children. Based on the work of other corporate lobbying groups like the various state chambers of commerce, it’s unlikely to do research. It doesn’t seem to have an educational purpose. It won’t be guarding the state’s rivers and beaches from polluters.
What’s troublesome is the obvious and direct connection between the substantial corporate donations and the expected policy changes. As the quote above indicates, contributors to this nonprofit expect a return from their investment. Money does buy access and that’s clearly the point of this new nonprofit.
Following are the board members of Choose New Jersey:
American Water – Don Correll, CEO & President
Atlantic City Electric – Vincent Malone, President
Bank of America Merrill Lynch – Robert Doherty, State President
Bethany Baptist Church – M. William Howard, Jr., Pastor
Healthcare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ) – Bob Hugin, Celegene President & COO (representing HINJ)
Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NJ – William Marino, Chairman & CEO
Laborers Union - Raymond M. Pocino, LIUNA VP & Eastern Regional Manager
New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group – Bernard Flynn, President & CEO
New Jersey Resources – Laurence Downes, Chairman & CEO
Novartis – Kevin Rigby, VP of Public Affairs
Prudential Financial – John Strangefeld, Chairman & CEO
Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) – Ralph Izzo, Chairman & CEO
South Jersey Industries – Edward Graham, President & CEO
United Water – Robert Iacullo, President & CEO
Verizon – Dennis Bone, President of Verizon NJ
Wakefern Food Corporation – Joe Colalillo, President
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