ELEC: Top 25 Special Interest Groups Spent Over $74 Million in 2017

The Freeholder fight unites more than it delights.

The top 25 special interest groups in 2017 spent more than $74 million trying to influence elections and government policy in New Jersey, according to a new analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

The analysis seeks to measure the full clout of the pressure groups by totaling their direct contributions and independent spending, which influence elections, and lobbying, which influences policy. A similar analysis was done in 2013. In both years, there were elections for the governor’s post and all 120 legislative seats. Comparing 2017 with 2013, a mix of unions, 527 political committees, business groups and ideological organizations spent almost $18.6 million (34 percent) more in 2017 than the top 25 in 2013. Fifteen groups listed in 2013 also appear on the 2017 list. The biggest increase during the period by the pressure groups came in independent spending, which rose $14.9 million, or 56 percent.

Contributions were up $1.2 million (7 percent), while lobbying grew $2.4 million (23 percent).

Table 1

Top 25 Special Interest Groups- 2013 Versus 2017

Type of Influence 2013 2017 Change$ Change%

Contributions $18,383,341* $19,601,080 $ 1,217,739 7%

Independent Spending $26,492,908 $41,450,715 $14,957,807 56%

Lobbying $10,559,362 $13,002,329 $ 2,442,967 23%

Total $55,435,611 $74,054,124 $18,618,513 34%

*Mostly PAC contributions; small amount made by special interest group directly or its employees

“In the past, special interest groups used lobbying and political action committees as their main vehicle for influencing public policy,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director. “During the last decade, independent groups have quickly become their preferred weapon. The top 25 groups alone spent more on independent spending last year ($41.4 million) than all estimated PAC spending ($28.9 million) on state and local elections,” he said.

“This is more reason why the legislature needs to enact ELEC-recommended legislation that would require independent groups to fully disclose their campaign finances while also seeking to strengthen political parties and greatly simplify pay-to-play rules,” Brindle said. “Pay-to-play reform would sharply reduce the amount public contractors could give to PACs.”

Table 2

Top 25 Special Interest Groups 2017

GROUP† CONTRIBUTIONS INDEPENDENT SPENDING LOBBYING TOTAL TYPE

New Jersey Education Association $ 951,605 $ 8,455,421 $ 512,656 $ 9,919,682

Union General Majority PAC None $ 6,965,848 None $ 6,965,848 527

Political Committee Committee to Build the Economy None $ 6,572,755 None $ 6,572,755 527

Political Committee†† New Jerseyans for a Better Tomorrow None $ 6,408,206 None $ 6,408,206 527 Political Committee Laborers Affiliates $ 3,348,300 $ 2,541,068 $ 9,034 $ 5,898,402

Union Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters NJ PEC and affiliates $ 2,239,875 $ 3,043,832 $ 90,791 $ 5,374,498

Union IBEW Affiliates $ 4,230,463 None $ 98,400 $ 4,328,863

Union Operating Engineers Locals 825 and 68 $ 1,861,524 $ 1,651,403 $ 36,000 $ 3,548,927

Union Democratic Governors Association $ 747,900 $ 2,449,330 None $ 3,197,230

Ideological Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ* $ 200,650 None $ 2,524,921 $ 2,725,571

Health Insurer Public Service Enterprise Group* $ 355,100 None $ 2,350,364 $ 2,705,464

Energy Utility Republican Governors Association $ 4,300 $ 2,355,445 None $ 2,359,745

Ideological Plumbers and Pipefitters $ 1,934,782 None $ 33,000 $ 1,967,782

Union Communication Workers of America affiliates $ 1,346,236 $ 275,000 None $ 1,621,236

Union Realtors $ 459,800 $ 699,049 $ 353,948 $ 1,512,798

Realtors NJ Food Council $ 110,750 None $ 1,151,556 $ 1,262,306

Business Occidental Petroleum Corporation* $ 12,500 None $ 1,198,826 $ 1,211,326

Business New Jersey Coalition for Fair Energy* $ 650 None $ 939,058 $ 939,708

Business New Jersey Hospital Association $ 69,800 None $ 818,332 $ 888,132

Hospitals New Jersey Business and Industry Association and New Jersey Organization for a Better State $ 463,610 None $ 414,910 $ 878,520

Business Prudential Financial Inc* $ 89,135 None $ 778,353 $ 867,488

Financial Services NJSPBA $ 601,250 $ 33,358 $ 154,250 $ 788,858

Union NJ Association for Justice PAC $ 506,400 None $ 234,300 $ 740,700

Lawyers Verizon NJ $ 62,450 None $ 652,124 $ 714,574

Communications firm Saint Josephs Healthcare System* $ 4,000 None $ 651,506 $ 655,506

Hospitals Totals $19,601,080 $41,450,715 $13,002,329 $74,054,124

*Includes donations from individual employees or corporation †Full PAC names on last page. †† Now a Super PAC

In 2017, the top 25 advocacy groups alone comprised 68 percent of all political action committee spending, 83 percent of independent spending and 14 percent of lobbying.

Table 3

Top 25 Special Interests versus Total Spending 2017

TYPE OF INFLUENCE TOP 25 ALL GROUPS % TOP 25

Contributions $19,601,080* $ 28,914,345 68%

Independent Spending $41,450,715 $ 49,717,419 83%

Lobbying $13,002,329 $ 91,718,809 14%

Total $74,054,124 $170,350,573 43%

*Mostly PAC contributions; small amount made by special interest group directly or its employees Among the top 25, unions did the heaviest spending at more than $33 million, or 45 percent.

Table 4

Top 25 Special Interest Groups Broken Down by Type

TYPE TOTAL PERCENT

Union $33,448,248 45% 527

Political Committee $19,946,809 27%

Ideological $ 5,556,975 8%

Business $ 4,291,210 6%

Health Insurer $ 2,725,571 4%

Energy Utility $ 2,705,464 4%

Hospitals $ 1,543,638 2%

Realtors $ 1,512,798 2%

Financial Services $ 867,488 1%

Lawers $ 740,700 1%

Communications Firm $ 714,574 1%

Grand Total $74,054,124 100%

Seventeen of the top 25 pressure groups operate traditional continuing political committees registered in New Jersey, also known as PACs. These are subject to contribution limits and file quarterly reports with ELEC. PACs traditionally have been the main method for special interest groups to funnel political contributions to state and local campaigns. In 2017, 275 PACs filed quarterly reports with ELEC.

Spending by those groups totaled $28,198,057. In addition, some PACs, mostly out-of-state, made contributions without filing reports with ELEC. They spent $716,288. Total PAC giving to New Jersey elections reached a new high in 2017, topping $28,914,345. PAC contributions increased by $16.8 million or 139 percent over 2016, when there were no statewide non-federal elections. It was the highest PAC spending since 2013, the last year in which the governor’s position and all 120 legislative seats were in play.

Table 5

Contributions by Political Action Committees (PACs) to NJ State and Local Candidates and Committees*

YEAR AMOUNT CHANGE $ CHANGE % STATE ELECTIONS**

2011 $18,014,998 S,A

2012 $ 8,929,281 $ (9,085,717) -50% None

2013 $22,140,110 $ 13,210,829 148% G,S,A

2014 $11,130,655 $(11,009,455) -50% None

2015 $17,809,502 $ 6,678,848 60% A

2016 $12,105,217 $ (5,704,285) -32% None

2017 $28,914,345 $ 16,809,128 139% G,S,A

*Excludes federal and out-of-state candidates

**G=Gubernatorial, S=Senate, A=Assembly

“PAC spending typically ramps up during election years, particularly when all state elected positions are in contention as they were in 2017,” said Brindle. “In addition, the state’s pay-to-play law exempts PACs, providing an incentive for public contractors to give to them rather than parties.

“Unlike independent groups, which can accept unlimited contributions, PACs are subject to state contribution limits. But PACs still play an important role in electoral politics because they can make direct contributions to candidates,” he said.

Total PAC spending in 2017, including contributions to out-of-state and federal candidates, was $47.6 million. The $28.9 million spent on New Jersey non-federal elections represents 61 percent of this total.

Table 6

Top 25 PAC Contributors to NJ State and Local Candidates and Committees

PAC NAME† GOVERNOR LEGISLATIVE STATE PARTIES COUNTY PARTIES LOCAL/OTHER PACS TOTAL

NJ State Laborers PAC $ 8,884 $ 792,691 $ 50,000 $ 863,800 $1,306,242 $3,021,617

Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters NJ PEC $ 4,300 $ 518,600 $ 25,000 $ 944,700 $ 747,275 $2,239,875

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 $ 4,300 $ 1,100,700 $ 30,000 $ 65,000 $ 225,804 $1,425,804

CWA NJ PEC $ 7,504 $ 385,370 $ 5,000 $ 481,000 $ 251,600 $1,130,474

NJ Education Association PAC $ 4,300 $ 449,918 $ 25,000 $ 275,800 $ 188,360 $ 943,378

IBEW Local #351 $ 48,600 $ 145,000 $ 25,000 $ 322,900 $ 379,263 $ 920,763

Local Union 164 IBEW Cope Fund $ 8,600 $ 199,900 $ 6,000 $ 317,900 $ 303,061 $ 835,461

Local 102 IBEW PAC $ 51,300 $ 370,700 $ 28,700 $ 86,350 $ 105,775 $ 642,825

NJ State Association of Pipe Trades PAC Fund $ 50,000 $ 74,500 $ 25,000 $ 264,999 $ 225,000 $ 639,499

NJSPBA PAC $ 48,679 $ 392,429 $ 37,500 $ 82,500 $ 73,500 $ 634,608

IBEW LU 456 Cope Fund $ 83,600 $ 215,800 $ 25,000 $ 227,000 $ 41,095 $ 592,495

BAC Administrative District Council of NJ $ 119,500 $ 175,000 $ 25,000 $ 4,250 $ 235,835 $ 559,585

AFSCME Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality $ 8,600 $ 234,350 $ 25,000 $ 277,000 $ 13,700 $ 558,650

Unite Here Tip State and Local Fund $ 279,300 $ 168,193 $ 100,000 $ 547,493

International Longshoremens Assoc AFL-CIO Cmte on PE $ 125,000 $ 101,625 $ 25,000 $ 247,000 $ 48,175 $ 546,800

NJ Association for Justice PAC $ 8,600 $ 402,800 $ 30,000 $ 65,000 $ 506,400

Realtors PAC $ 386,400 $ 35,000 $ 7,600 $ 30,800 $ 459,800

IBEW PAC-DC $ 158,350 $ 116,150 $ 25,300 $ 106,750 $ 34,010 $ 440,560

United Food & Commercial Workers $ 344,300 $ 1,000 $ 11,800 $ 357,100

United Association $ 100,000 $ 250,000 $ 350,000

NJ Apartment Association PAC, Inc $ 8,600 $ 327,900 $ 5,000 $ 5,000 $ 346,500

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 322 PEC $ 6,000 $ 104,500 $ 44,200 $ 175,837 $ 330,537

NJ Organization for A Better State $ 321,600 $ (5,000) $ 316,600

Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 9 $ 4,800 $ 165,100 $ 9,000 $ 25,975 $ 98,300 $ 303,175

Sheet Metal Workers LU 19 Pel $ 75,000 $ 30,575 $ 25,000 $ 10,400 $ 149,500 $ 290,475

Totals- Top 25 PACs $1,458,117 $ 7,180,802 $ 598,300 $4,655,124 $5,048,132 $18,940,474

Totals- All 275 registered PACs $2,182,847 $12,650,013 $1,081,610 $5,159,008 $7,124,579 $28,198,057

Top 25 as % of Total PACs 67% 57% 55% 90% 71% 67%

† Full PAC names on last page.

The top 25 PACs were a major force in 2017. They alone contributed 67 percent of the total PAC contributions to state and local non-federal elections ($18.9 million). They also contributed 90 percent of the funds received by county parties, 71 percent that went to local elections and other PACs, 67 percent contributed by PACs to support gubernatorial candidates, 57 percent of the contributions to legislative candidates and 55 percent of the PAC funds received by state parties.

Twenty-one of the top 25 PACs represent unions, including the top ten. Of the nearly $29 million in PAC spending last year, 76 percent came from unions, according to reports filed with ELEC. That is the highest percentage since at least 2011, when ELEC first started doing a detailed breakdown of PAC contributions to state and local candidates.

Table 7

Contributions by Union Political Action Committees (PACs) to New Jersey State and Local Candidates and Committees

YEAR AMOUNT* % OF TOTAL NJ PAC CONTRIBUTIONS

2013 $14,268,199 64%

2014 $ 7,149,273 64%

2015 $11,811,678 66%

2016 $ 7,981,768 66%

2017 $21,876,329 76%

*Not available before 2013

Since the first political action committee (PAC) was formed by unions in 1943, labor organizations nationally and in New Jersey have relied heavily on PACs as their chief source of political spending. It is not a surprise that unions are active in New Jersey politics since the state has one of the highest concentrations of union membership. There were 628,734 union members in New Jersey in 2017, according to Unionstats.com, a reference website operated by Professors Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University and David Macpherson of Trinity College. Their data shows that New Jersey ranked sixth in union membership last year at 16.1 percent union membership. New York was first at 23.8 percent, while only 2.6 percent of South Carolina workers are union members. The national average- 10.8 percent. With 341,540 unionized public workers, New Jersey had the fourth highest concentration at 59.5 percent. Though less than New York’s top-ranking 67.4 percent, it is nearly twice the national average of 31.1 percent. Democrats in January took control of the governor’s seat for the first time since 2009 and have held majorities in both legislative houses since 2001. Among recipients of PAC contributions where the party could be determined, Democrats received $20.3 million, or 70 percent. Union-led PACs comprised the largest amount- $15.8 million. Republicans received 13 percent of total PAC contributions and just 7 percent of union PAC contributions.

Table 8

Political Party Contributions by PAC Type*

PAC TYPE TOTALDEMOCRATS PERCENT TOTALREPUBLICANS PERCENT LOCAL/OTHER PACS PERCENT GRAND TOTAL

Union $15,839,593 72% $1,622,019 7% $4,414,717 20% $21,876,329

Professional $ 1,977,167 70% $ 792,110 28% $ 70,703 2% $ 2,839,980

Trade Association $ 1,098,367 65% $ 531,665 31% $ 63,525 4% $ 1,693,557

Ideological $ 509,871 49% $ 341,312 33% $ 193,884 19% $ 1,047,577

Regulated Industries $ 474,860 72% $ 157,985 24% $ 23,350 4% $ 656,195

Business $ 327,147 65% $ 138,615 28% $ 35,635 7% $ 501,397

Other Ongoing $ 111,950 37% $ 31,960 11% $ 155,400 52% $ 299,310

Grand Total $20,338,955 70% $3,615,666 13% $4,957,213 17% $28,914,345

*Total includes $2,500 contribution to independent candidate

The overwhelming percentage of PAC contributions (78%) went to incumbents in 2017. Of the $3.1 million received by challengers, nearly $2.2 million went to either Democratic Governor Phil Murphy or Republican opponent Kimberly Guadagno. Neither were gubernatorial incumbents last year. The analysis excludes donations to party committees and legislative leadership PACs, which support both incumbents and challengers, and excludes local elections if party affiliation was uncertain.

Table 9

PAC Contributions to Known Incumbents and Challengers*

RECIPIENTS AMOUNT PERCENT

Incumbents $10,819,381 78%

Challengers $ 3,093,397 22%

Total $13,912,778 100%

Legislative incumbent candidates received the biggest share of PAC contributions- 92 percent.

Table 10

PAC Contributions to Legislative Incumbents and Challengers*

RECIPIENTS AMOUNT PERCENT

Incumbents $10,291,113 92%

Challengers $ 911,549 8%

Total $11,202,663 100%

The following PACs gave the most to legislative committees.

Table 11

Top Ten PAC Contributors to Legislative Committees*

PAC NAME AMOUNT

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 $1,100,700

NJ State Laborers PAC $ 792,691

Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters

NJ PEC $ 518,600

NJ Education Association PAC $ 449,918

NJ Association for Justice PAC $ 402,800

NJSPBA PAC $ 392,429

Realtors PAC $ 386,400

CWA NJ PEC $ 385,370

Local 102 IBEW PAC $ 370,700

NJ Apartment Association PAC, Inc $ 327,900

*Includes contributions to legislative leadership committees and individual legislators

County parties, which also are active during a statewide election year, were the second largest recipients of PAC contributions in 2017. The following PACs gave the most to county parties.

Table 12

Top Ten PAC Contributors to County Parties

PAC NAME AMOUNT

Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters NJ PEC $944,700

NJ State Laborers PAC $863,800

CWA NJ PEC $481,000

IBEW Local #351 $322,900

Local Union 164 IBEW Cope Fund $317,900

AFSCME Public Employees Organized to Promote Legislative Equality $277,000

NJ Education Association PAC $275,800

NJ State Association Of Pipe Trades PAC Fund $264,999

International Longshoremens Association AFL-CIO Cmte On PE $247,000

IBEW LU 456 Cope Fund $227,000

Continuing political committees (CPCs or PACs) generally are required to file detailed disclosure reports with ELEC when, during a calendar year, they expend more than $6,300. They must file reports with ELEC each quarter that list their contributions and expenditures. For purposes of this analysis, special interest PACs are defined as those that identified themselves as a business, labor union, professional association, ideological group, civic association, trade association, or other ongoing. The list also includes PACs formed by employees of regulated industries such as banks and insurance companies, which cannot use corporate funds for campaign contributions. This press release is a compilation of figures reported to the Commission, and is not intended to express any opinion concerning the accuracy or completeness of any filed report. Although the Commission has taken all reasonable precautions to prevent mathematical or typographical errors, they may occur. When mistakes are discovered, ELEC makes corrections. Copies of PAC, lobbying and independent spending reports are available on ELEC’s website at www.elec.state.nj.us. Key to PAC Abbreviations or Aliases: AFSCME= American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees; BAC= Bricklayers and Allied Crafts of NJ; CWA= Communications Workers of America; IBEW= International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; NJSPBA=NJ State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Inc.; United Association=Plumber

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