A Democratic state legislator is calling for a criminal investigation into whether Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck improperly lobbied the state Lottery Commission on behalf of a contractor at a time that she was employed by a firm doing public relations work for the commission, the Asbury Park Press reports today.
At issue is the purported role that Beck played when lottery operator GTech won a five-year contract in August 2005 to run the lottery with a $106.7 million bid, despite a bid from contender Scientific Games that might have cost the state just $75 million.
The request for an investigation was made by letter to the state Division of Criminal Justice on Sept. 29 by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora of Mercer County.
Beck, of Red Bank, told the Press that she never lobbied for the contract in question, and left the lobbying firm, MWW Group, nine months before the contract was awarded. Beck now works for QualCare Inc. in Piscataway, a health maintenance organization owned by New Jersey hospitals.
“Reed should really do his homework,” Beck told the Press. “I had been gone from MWW for almost a year at the time the GTech contract was awarded. These are the same deceptive tactics that they used against me during the campaign last year.”
From the Press article:
In a quasi-court hearing before former Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. O’Hern Jr., lawyers for Scientific Games said that state officials skewed the bidding process to keep GTech and that there was a conflict of interest because the MWW Group held a public relations contract with the New Jersey Lottery while also lobbying for GTech.
Documents not yet discussed in the hearing show that Beck and other lobbyists were meeting about the pending contract bid a year before it was awarded in autumn 2005. Beck has said she did not lobby on the contract.
“It raises serious questions about the legality of Ms. Beck’s lobbying activities for GTech when the private lottery-service provider was seeking a renewal of its state contract and while MWW was under contract to perform public relations service for the lottery commission,” Gusciora wrote.
O’Hern, a former Red Bank mayor who now resides in Little Silver, was appointed by the state to determine whether the contract was properly awarded, and has been conducting a hearing on the matter since Sept. 20.
On Sept. 21, Gannett State Bureau quoted Beck as saying, “I worked with GTech, but I never did any work for the lottery. The lottery work that MWW did was all PR work, and I wasn’t involved in that at all.”