A Friendly Reminder of (Fairly Recent) NJEA Campaign Activity

In comments made yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney indicated that he would reject Governor Phil Murphy’s offer of a $125 property tax credit for homeowners if the Legislature would support his proposal to raise rates on incomes over $1 million from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent.  Referring to the television ads run by the Murphy-aligned New Direction New Jersey, which has received $2.5 million from the NJEA, Sweeney said, “He can spend $10 million in TV commercials from the NJEA, because it is crystal-clear who is running Trenton right now — it’s not the governor’s office. It’s the headquarters of the NJEA.”

Sweeney’s comments reflected an ongoing feud between the Senate President and the NJEA, CWA, and other public sector unions, who support Murphy’s millionaire’s tax and are vehemently opposed to Sweeney’s bill package, known as the “Path to Progress,” that seeks to make significant cuts to public employee benefits.  InsiderNJ has reported extensively on the Path to Progress, which has not yet been formally considered by the Legislature.

But the Senate President’s current disdain for the NJEA and other public sector unions belies a very recent history of reliance on these groups in order to secure political majorities in the Legislature.  A review by InsiderNJ of news stories and ELEC reports from 2013 and 2015 shows that the South Jersey Democratic organization and its affiliated super PACs (specifically the Fund for Jobs, Growth, and Security, which later became General Majority PAC) received many millions of dollars in funding from these unions (most of it from the NJEA’s Garden State Forward super PAC) to support its political and campaign activities.  These contributions were never criticized by Sweeney or other South Jersey Democratic leaders.

In 2013, a 11/25/13 ELEC filing (below) shows that the Fund for Jobs, Growth, and Security received $5.55 million from Garden State Forward (page 2), as well as $600,000 from CWA (page 2).  In 2015, a 11/23/15 ELEC filing (below) shows that General Majority PAC received $3.64 million from Garden State Forward (page 2), as well as $250,000 from CWA (page 2).  These figures far exceed the $2.5 million contribution from the NJEA that was the basis of Sweeney’s Thursday criticism of Murphy.

Contemporary press accounts bear out these reports and show that, in 2013, the Fund for Jobs, Growth, and Security used these contributions in support of South Jersey candidates.  A September 2013 story from the Philadelphia Inquirer (“Fund Draws Big Bucks for Democrats in South Jersey”) references an ad that the Fund ran in support of then-1st District Senator Jeff Van Drew, as well as 5 other South Jersey lawmakers, including Van Drew and his Assembly running mates Nelson Albano and Robert Andrzejczak; Atlantic County Sen. Jim Whelan; and Burlington County Assemblymen Herb Conaway and Troy Singleton.  The story further states that by the June primary, “the Fund had received $1.75 million in contributions from three sources, including $1 million from a independent expenditure committee formed by the state’s largest teachers’ union.”  The Fund even paid for a television attack ad against Sweeney’s 2013 opponent, Niki Trunk.  These press accounts show no criticism of these contributions from Sweeney or other South Jersey Democratic leaders.

In 2015, contemporary press accounts again document the South Jersey Democratic organization’s reliance on public sector union funding.  A thorough review by NJ Spotlight (“Independent Committees Spent Record Share in 2015 Assembly Races”) acknowledges that General Majority PAC received $3.64 million from Garden State Forward, and concentrated its spending on the 1st and 2nd legislative districts.  A Star-Ledger story (“Who Raised the Big Bucks in the NJ Assembly Races”) quantifies that spending, indicating that General Majority spent $1.5 million in LD2 and “nearly that much” in LD1.  As in 2013, these press accounts show no criticism of these contributions from Sweeney or other South Jersey Democratic leaders.

11-25-13 ELEC Report
11-23-15 ELEC Report
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