Donohue announces formation of legal team to challenge “fish-wrapper of a bill” targeting Golden

No one is denying that a new bill designed to stop county constitutional officers from holding elected county political party positions is aimed at one guy: Monmouth’s Shaun Golden. After all, he’s the only politician across all 21 counties who, at present, would be impacted by the Democrat legislative proposal (he currently serves as Monmouth’s sheriff and GOP county chairman). Plenty of other pols holding more than one public role including a few who serve as legislators and county chairmen are spared by the language.

It’s more-than-likely unconstitutional. New Jersey’s constitution specifically provides that “no general law shall embrace any provision of a private, special or local character.” The transparently anti-Golden legislative proposal spearheaded by state Senator Vin Gopal of LD11 (Monmouth’s top Democrat) would appear to check all of the boxes. 

“Rather than address rising crime, students’ learning loss, or out of control taxes and cost of living, Vin Gopal (the architect of the outrageous and age-inappropriate curriculum standards currently being forced on kids and parents) is instead using the power of his office to target someone who is attempting to hold him accountable for this extreme agenda. If this isn’t a textbook definition of ‘abuse of power,’ I don’t know what is,” opined Tom Szymanski, executive director of the NJGOP and a former ED of the Monmouth GOP organization.

Other prominent Republicans see the potential for far-reaching consequences, and they’re attempting to mobilize ahead of an anticipated legal challenge since – FYI – Save Jersey sources believe the legislation has the votes to pass both chambers.

On Friday afternoon, Cape May County GOP Chairman and retired Superior Court Judge Mike Donohue emailed fellow Republican leaders warning that “this fish-wrapper of a bill seeks to upend those longstanding traditions, impute nefarious intentions to everything we do and have State government tell us who our political leaders may be and how they must act.”

“This bill, in addition to all of its other failings, is undemocratic and unAmerican,” added Donohue, announcing that he and fellow leaders “have begun to compile a legal team to prepare for possible federal litigation should the Governor ever sign this bill.”

The Judge’s entire email is shared below:

Good afternoon, fellow Republican County Chairs, Chairman Hugin and Legislative Leaders.By now I am sure you have all seen the attached Unconstitutional bill that would prohibit Constitutional Officers from serving as County Chairs.  This bill is a blatant violation of the First Amendment’s long-established right to freedom of Association.  Political association is the most protected associational right in America and there is no way this bill, if enacted into law, would ever withstand Constitutional scrutiny.  What’s more, it flies in the faces of decades of New Jersey jurisprudence on the operations of political parties and the fact that the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of State government should play a very defined and very limited role in those operations.  The fact that the sponsors of this bill are well aware of its Constitutional infirmities is evident in the long, apologetic and indefensible introduction to the bill.  Additionally, this bill amounts clearly to a Constitutionally prohibited Bill of Attainder.  Although it does not mention Chairman Golden by name, that fact cannot save it as everyone knows that there is only one person who will be punished by the power of State government by the enactment of this law.  It was long ago said that “in all such cases, the legislature exercises what may properly be deemed an irresponsible despotic discretion, being governed solely by what it deems political necessity or expediency, and too often under the influence of unreasonable fears or unfounded suspicions.”  There is no doubt that this bill is the creation of a small cadre of ill-motivated political characters, advanced for no noble purpose and designed only to effectuate the removal of a political rival.I believe it is incumbent upon all of us as County Chairs and for our Association, along with NJGOP and our legislative Leadership to offer as firm, vocal, aggressive and united opposition to this bill as can possibly be mustered.  Today it is Shaun Golden.  Tomorrow it is you and me.  Under the theory of the introduction to this bill, no Legislator should be allowed to serve as a County Chair since the Legislature oversees and passes laws related to elections and the Judiciary.  No County Commissioner should be allowed to serve as a County Chair since they control the budgets of Boards of Elections and County Clerks.  No local elected official should be allowed to serve as a County Chair since they oversee their Municipal Clerks who run their elections.  This is the slippery slope upon which the myopic peddlers of this indefensible bill have set us all.  Perhaps if you work for County or Municipal government you should not be allowed to be a County Chair since you might have some influence over the elected officials who oversee elections.  This bill lays the foundation for all of the above and will create avenues for legal challenges to everything many of us do as County Chairs.  Up until the introduction of this bill, with the supposed momentum to pass, our society has recognized that there is politics in government.  In fact, it is a driving force.  Once elected, Executives and Legislators are expected to advance the ideological interests of those who elected them.  This is a respected and expected part of democratic institutions throughout the world.  This fish-wrapper of a bill seeks to upend those longstanding traditions, impute nefarious intentions to everything we do and have State government tell us who our political leaders may be and how they must act.  This bill, in addition to all of its other failings, is undemocratic and unAmerican.I have spoken to many of you individually and to several Legislators and we are ready to publicly join the opposition to this bill.  I would volunteer to assist in crafting an appropriate news release to include the signatures of all the County Chairs, our NJGOP Chair and our Legislative Leaders to be sent out as soon as possible to as large a media contacts list as can be compiled, in staunch opposition to this bill.  It would also be most helpful to us all, I believe, for folks to share thoughts here on the best approach to defeating this bill.  Additionally, we have begun to compile a legal team to prepare for possible federal litigation should the Governor ever sign this bill.  Assistance in that regard is also welcomed.Looking forward to hearing positively from everyone as soon as possible.Thanks.-MikeChairman Michael J. DonohueCapeGOP

Matt Rooney
About Matt Rooney 8345 Articles
MATT ROONEY is SaveJersey.com's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.