Her last two jobs, as a lobbyist and executive at a health insurance company, were used as cudgels against her by her opponent in the 12th district state Senate race.
But now that she’s been elected, Republican state Senator Jennifer Beck has opted not to go back to work at Qualcare Inc., the health maintenance organization from which she took a sabbatical last March.
Problem is, with a house in Red Bank to maintain and other expenses, Beck says she can’t make it on the $49,000 salary of a state legislator (it’s the same for both the Assembly and the Senate).
So while she took office today, Beck was also looking for a job. And that means navigating not only conflicts of interest, but anything that might look like one, she tells redbankgreen.
“It’s an interesting dynamic right now,” she says. “Any newly elected official, because of all the negativity in politics, is being exceptionally careful about the work they do to support themselves professionally to make sure that there isn’t not only a conflict of interest, but an appearance of a conflict.”
She’s got her resume out “to a number of different people” she says. But anticipating political blowback over a job choice complicates a job search.
“That’s what’s made it most difficult,” she says. “It’s not that there aren’t jobs to be had. It’s that you want to be certain that job doesn’t entail you interacting with state government, so that there wouldn’t be any question mark.”
If she didn’t know the perils before, she ought to now. In the race for the Senate seat, incumbent Democrat Ellen Karcher blasted Beck as the “lobbyist-turned-legislator” whose mandate at Qualcare was “to deny healthcare benefits to consumers,” according to campaign literature.
There’s also the not-so-small matter of having to be at the Statehouse for legislative sessions at least 40 days a year. “So you have to have an employer that’s willing to deal with your coming and going, and the requirement that you be in Trenton,” Beck says. The main reason she’s no longer a vice president at Qualcare is that the job required her to be in the company’s offices every day, she says.
At Qualcare, she says, she headed up corporate communications, with responsibility for all the marketing materials, the annual report, direct mail, billboards, website text. She also managed “earned media” ghost writing op-ed pieces, organizing press conferences, that sort of thing.
Her experience also includes work at MWW Group, where she was a lobbyist for three or four years while serving on the Red Bank Borough Council. She can’t do lobbying work now, of course: that would be illegal.
Mayor Pasquale Menna, a Democrat who considers Beck “a dear friend” and plans to rely on the triathlete for tips on his first run of the George Sheehan Classic in June, thinks Beck won’t have much trouble finding a good job. “She’s a catch,” he says.
Beck, though, is hedging. Last spring, she set up a small marketing firm, called JAB Marketing LLC, through which she’s looking to do, on a freelance or consulting basis, the kind of work she did for Qualcare.
“My thinking is that if I could have a handful of private clients and work on my own schedule, that would be the best of both worlds,” she says. “But whether I can actually find those clients I’m working on that.”