ELEC: PAC-Dwarfed Big Six Spending Totaled $13.3 Million in 2017

Jones and Currie

Spending by the so-called “Big Six” committees totaled $13.3 million in 2017 but the amount was dwarfed by independent special interest spending, according to an analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). Independent groups spent $45.4 million on last year’s election, more than triple the sum spent by the two state parties and four legislative leadership committees. The governor’s seat and all 120 legislative seats were up for reelection.

“Party committees are now regularly out-gunned by independent groups during New Jersey’s statewide elections,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director. In 2007, Big Six committees spent 142 times more than independent groups in the election. By 2017, independent committees spent more than three times the Big Six total. Of the total amount spent by the two groups, the 23 percent share by the Big Six was its lowest ever. If the 2009 Big Six spending total is adjusted for inflation, the $13.3 million spent by Big Six committees in 2017 also is the lowest sum spent in the last decade except for 2015, when just the state Assembly faced reelection. “Traditional committees used by the two major parties to raise funds for New Jersey elections seem to be in relentless decline. Legislative reforms are needed to try to reverse this trend and create a more balanced electoral landscape,” he said.

While independent groups usually are aligned with one of the two parties, they legally must operate outside the control of party leaders. Unlike the party committees, they face no contribution limits, and, under current state law, they are less accountable because they can hide where they get their money. “Party committees are more accountable and transparent. That is why political contributors need to be encouraged to go back to supporting parties directly,” Brindle said. “Some independent groups should be commended because they have voluntarily disclosed their contributions in recent elections. But the fact is, New Jersey’s law is so antiquated that nearly all $112 million spent independently since 2007 could have been done with zero donor disclosure,” Brindle said.

Compared to 2013, the last year when the governors seat and both houses faced reelection, Democratic fundraising, spending and cash reserves showed improvement. Republican numbers have declined since the 2013 election.

Brindle said members of both parties have expressed support for ELEC-recommended legislation that could strengthen party committees. Among the changes: raising the size of contributions that party committees can accept, exempting parties from pay-to-play restrictions, and requiring independent committees to fully disclose their campaign finance activities in New Jersey. “We are hoping the new administration will seriously consider these changes and we will continue to work with both parties to bring about these needed reforms,” said Brindle. State parties and legislative leadership committees are required to report their financial activity to the Commission on a quarterly basis. The reports are available on ELEC’s website at www.elec.state.nj.us. ELEC also can be accessed on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NJElectionLaw) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/elecnj).

Spending by Big Six Committees Versus Independent Groups During Election Years Election Year Combined Big Six Spending Independent Spending Total Percent Big Six Offices on Ballot

2007 $23,367,064 $ 165,000 $ 23,532,064 99% Senate, Assembly

2009 $12,919,862* $ 14,096,167 $ 27,016,029 48% Gubernatorial, Assembly

2011 $15,547,359 $ 1,835,500 $ 17,382,859 89% Senate, Assembly

2013 $14,727,957 $ 38,802,531 $ 53,530,488 28% Gubernatorial, Senate, Assembly

2015 $ 8,661,126 $ 11,649,010 $ 20,310,136 43% Assembly

2017 $13,348,131 $ 45,369,946 $ 58,718,077 23% Gubernatorial, Senate, Assembly

Total- 2007-2017 $88,571,499 $111,918,154 $200,489,653 44%

Campaign Finance Activity by “Big Six” January 1 through December 31 Year Raised Spent* Cash-on-Hand Net Worth** Statewide Elections

2007 $19,177,655 $23,367,064 $ 377,324 $ (521,409) Senate and Assembly

2008 $ 6,653,676 $ 5,186,294 $1,844,704 $1,669,848

2009 $12,368,082 $12,919,862 $1,297,457 $1,107,532 Governor and Assembly

2010 $ 6,180,605 $ 5,918,029 $1,540,032 $1,305,667

2011 $15,035,468 $15,547,359 $1,028,142 $ 705,787 Senate and Assembly

2012 $ 7,063,133 $ 6,391,757 $1,684,525 $1,516,187

2013 $13,885,028 $14,727,957 $ 841,599 $ 755,419 Governor and Both Houses

2014 $ 4,872,907 $ 4,048,955 $1,662,052 $1,008,612

2015 $ 8,027,793 $ 8,661,126 $ 979,220 $ 262,353 Assembly Only

2016 $ 4,518,172 $ 3,842,223 $1,667,465 $1,511,597

2017 $12,243,328 $13,348,131 $ 738,454 $ 629,952 Governor and Both Houses

Campaign Finance Activity by “Big Six” Committees 2013 Versus 2017

Republicans Raised Spent Cash-on-Hand Net Worth

New Jersey Republican State Committee $ 2,272,417 $ 2,286,855 $ 96,686 $ 96,686

Senate Republican Majority $ 878,275 $ 1,416,976 $ 67,185 $ 67,185

Assembly Republican Victory $ 569,565 $ 834,950 $ 90,319 $ 90,319

Sub Total- Republicans-2017 $ 3,720,257 $ 4,538,781 $ 254,190 $ 254,190 Versus 2013 (Dollars) $(3,352,995) $(2,982,658) $(255,121) $(242,621) Versus 2013 (%) -47% -40% -50% -49%

Democrats

New Jersey Democratic State Committee $ 6,224,034 $ 5,952,250 $ 386,196 $ 352,132

Senate Democratic Majority $ 1,148,723 $ 1,580,603 $ 71,207 $ 51,207

Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee $ 1,150,314 $ 1,276,497 $ 26,861 $ (27,577)

Sub Total- Democrats- 2017 $ 8,523,071 $ 8,809,350 $ 484,264 $ 375,762 Versus 2013 (Dollars) $ 1,711,295 $ 1,602,832 $ 151,976 $ 117,154 Versus 2013 (%) 25% 22% 46% 45%

Both Parties Total- 2017 $ 12,243,328 $13,348,131 $ 738,454 $ 629,952 Versus 2013 (Dollars) $(1,641,700) $(1,379,826) $(103,145) $(125,467) Versus 2013 (%) -12% -9% -12% -17%

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