DRPA moves to make public vendor political donations

Posted: September 05, 2014

The official cloak of secrecy on political contributions made by companies working for the Delaware River Port Authority may soon be a thing of the past.

The DRPA's audit committee on Wednesday approved a proposal to restore public access to vendors' political contributions.

The full DRPA board will vote on the proposal, made by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, later this month.

"It's just common sense," DePasquale said Wednesday. "The public has a right to know who's donating to me."

"The idea of not letting this stuff become public is just silly."

Under the DRPA's current rules, adopted in November 2012, contractors doing or seeking business with the DRPA must disclose to the agency any political contributions made in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The DRPA, however, withholds those reports from the public.

Greater transparency

The DRPA created the secrecy policy in its 2012 public-right-to-know rules, claiming it was part of a move "to promote greater transparency and accountability in its dealings and communications with the public, recognizing that an informed citizenry enriches the function of government."

The board gave DRPA inspector general Thomas Raftery III the job of reviewing contractors' contribution disclosures. But it kept them secret, arguing that vendors might be discouraged from bidding if the information were made public.

Not retroactive

New Jersey's "pay-to-play" laws require contractors of state agencies to disclose their political contributions, which must be a matter of public record.

But the Camden-based DRPA, as a bistate creation of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is not bound by the pay-to-play or right-to-know laws of either state.

If approved, the new disclosure rules would not apply retroactively to the period during which the contributions were kept secret. Those contributions would still be blocked from public access.




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