AP NEWS

PSE&G drops support for Garrett, Assemblyman says

July 27, 2016

The political action committee for state’s largest power provider has agreed to halt donations to Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, after Democratic lawmakers put pressure on the company because of the Congressman’s positions on gay rights.

The company, Public Service Electric & Gas, hosted a Wednesday morning breakfast meeting with New Jersey delegates gathered in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention.

But the headline speaker, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, withdrew from the event because of the company’s support of Garrett through a political action committee. Garrett, a religious conservative, has refused to pay dues to House fundraising efforts because it supports gay candidates and has sponsored a bill that would allow businesses and people to deny services to gay couples based on their religious beliefs.

Tim Eustace, a Democratic Assemblyman from Maywood who is gay, has been pushing for the power company to deny support of Garrett and said Wednesday that the company “agreed to do that” as well as “do better corporate citizenship for LGBT issues.” The company’s political action committee, PSEG PAC, gave Garrett $6,500 for the 2012 election, $7,000 for the 2014 election, and $5,000 so far in this cycle, Federal Election Commission records show. The PAC can give up to $10,000 combined for the primary and general elections each cycle.

“This is one of our biggest companies. You’d think that they would understand the sensitivity and push Garrett to evolve or at least back away from the comments that are so full of hate,” Sweeney said Wednesday morning, following the breakfast he was supposed to host. “If I just walk in there and acted like it’s OK, then I’m part of it.”

The power company did not immediately respond for comment. It said in a statement earlier this week that it would not comment on the Fifth District race, in which Garrett is being challenged by Democrat Josh Gottheimer.

“We are vocal and proud in our support of the LGBT community and our LGBT employees. We recognized equal benefits for same sex couples in our benefit programs long before same sex marriage became law. We support and sponsor Garden State Equality and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and actively participate with those groups through our employee resource group composed of LGBT employees and their supporters,” spokesman Michael Jennings said in a statement. “Our PAC has a narrow purpose and primarily funds incumbent candidates who support issues on energy that are important to our ability to serve our customers.”

Garrett’s campaign did not immediately respond for comment. On Sunday, when Sweeney announced he was pulling out of the breakfast, Garrett’s campaign said that Sweeney was acting on behalf of Gottheimer and leveraging his power as Senate President for a future run for governor.

Eustace said the issue was not about politics but a “dereliction of duty” by the Congressman representing the public.

“This man is not good for the citizens of New Jersey. It’s OK to have personal opinions if you’re not sitting in a Congressional chair. If you’re affecting American citizens, you should get out of the chair,” he said. Of the power company, Eustace added, “They did what I asked them to do and hopefully in the future things will get better.”

Washington correspondent Herb Jackson contributed to this article.

Email: racioppi@northjersey.com