Is it Bribery to Withhold Cash?

I don’t think so, but that’s the charge being made by New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney against the New Jersey Education Association.

NJEA representatives called county Democratic chairs on Tuesday and told them that if the proposed constitutional amendment to ramp up pension payments is not voted on by next week, in time to put it on the ballot in November, they won’t get any political donations from the union until at least next year.

Sweeney is a Democrat and a vice president of the ironworkers union, but he has crossed swords with NJEA in the past. He sent letters to both the U.S. Attorney and the New Jersey Attorney General.

“These threats clearly cross the line from lobbying to attempted bribery and conspiracy. Essentially, the NJEA has put members of the New Jersey State Senate in the position of tying specific official action to the receipt of a campaign contribution,” Sweeney wrote. “Rather than engaging in public issue advocacy focused on the education of our children the NJEA has diminished advocacy to engage in unprecedented tactics designed to extort public officials into undertaking actions that would benefit the pocketbooks of its members.”

This is quite a dust-up, but there’s less here than meets the eye. Buried at the bottom of this story is the news that “the NJEA and its county affiliates are still supporting candidates directly.” Apparently it’s only the county Democratic party committees that will be shut out. That’s significant, but it’s not like NJEA is getting out of the campaign contribution and electioneering business.