ELEC: County Party Fund-Raising Dips in Non-State Election Year

Jones and Rice

County political party committees in 2020 reported their second smallest fund-raising haul in a
dozen years, collecting just $6.9 million, according to the latest reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

Since 2009, the $6.4 million raised in 2012 was the only lower total. Even that amount was worth more- $7.2 million- adjusting for inflation.

One reason fund-raising dropped was because several county party fund-raising events were cancelled or delayed after the COVID-19 pandemic first slammed New Jersey last March. However, fund-raising picked up during the latter half of the year as officials adjusted.

“I’m sure party leaders knew they had to start picking things up since this year’s election features a race for governor, all 120 legislative seats and multiple county posts,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director.

“We all were knocked off balance when the pandemic first swept the state. It is a testament to the resiliency of party officials that they have been able to bounce back somewhat,” he said.

While fund-raising was tepid in 2020, it could have been worse.

Since 2001, counties overall have raised 25 percent less during federal election years such as 2020. Last year, the total was off just 16 percent from 2019, when the last state election was held.

Both parties are raising less money and spending less than four years ago. Democratic declines were much smaller, however, leaving the majority party with a significant advantage over Republicans in cash reserves.

Democrats have controlled the governor’s seat since January 2018 and have held majorities in both legislative houses since January 2002.

Compared to 2016, Democratic cash-on-hand is 62 percent higher at $2.6 million. Republican cash-on hand is down 25 percent to $443,496.

Brindle said both parties raise far less money than they did in the early 2000s before tight curbs on public contractor donations pinched their coffers and independent special interest groups began competing for donor dollars.

“Bi-partisan legislative recommendations by ELEC should make it easier for state and county party officials to raise funds. The hope is these reforms will shift contributions from so-called “dark money” spenders that have rapidly grown in influence in recent years back to more accountable and transparent party committees,” he said.

Ten Democratic county party committees- Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, Salem, and Union- reported more than $100,000 cash-on-hand totals. Hudson and Morris Counties reported a negative net worth, meaning they owe more than their cash reserves.

No Republican county committees reported more than $100,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of 2020.

The numbers in this analysis are based on reports filed by noon February 5, 2021. They have yet to be verified by ELEC staff, and should be considered preliminary.

Individual reports can be reviewed on ELEC’s website (www.elec.state.nj.us).

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