A Happy Return

The Bergen Record ( — Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Plainsboro, did the right thing when she recently donated $2,000 she received from disgraced power broker John Lynch to a clean government group.

Her example ought to be followed by other office holders who received political donations from Mr. Lynch, the former state senator from New Brunswick, or any other criminal, Democrat or Republican, involved in spreading campaign money around.

So far only Ms. Greenstein and State Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Metuchen, have returned money given by Mr. Lynch, once one of the most powerful members of the legislature. He plead guilty in federal court last month to several charges of political corruption.

"What Linda did, besides giving back money that perhaps has a taint to it, is she is also giving it to a cause that will perhaps help to take the taint out," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, the recipient of the donation.

There's plenty more of the tainted cash out there. Through his political action committee, Mr. Lynch donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats in the state. Republicans, as might be expected, have challenged Democratic office holders who were on the receiving end of Mr. Lynch's largesse to do what Ms. Greenstein and Ms. Buono did: Donate the money to a good cause.

Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore, in particular, has taken criticism from Hamilton Republicans for not disposing of Lynch money that came his way. In 2003, Lynch's PAC donated about $22,000 to the Mercer County Democratic Committee. Mr. Gilmore got $12,000 and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes' campaign received about $9,200.

Mayor Gilmore, through his spokesman Rich McClellan, counters that the mayor will consider returning the money when Republicans give back money they received from Harry Parkin, the former chief of staff for Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti. Parkin is serving a federal prison sentence for political corruption.

We'd like to see the Mercer GOP take up the challenge. Think about it. It's bad money going to good-government groups who otherwise would never see a dime from political bosses. More importantly, it will send a message that at least some in politics won't tolerate the status quo of money flowing from corrupt politicians.

Ms. Greenstein summed it up best: "The public perception of politicians at this point is at an all-time low. I feel it's important for me to try to be a role model for good ethics in government."

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