Independent Spending Drives Up Cost of 2021 Gubernatorial Election

Sweeney

 

A record spike in independent spending pushed the cost of the 2021 gubernatorial election to $90.7 million, the second costliest on record when inflation is taken into account, according to the latest reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

“While the 2021 election cost the most ever in nominal dollars, it still ranks second compared to the 2005 election. What may be most significant is that independent spending reached $41.7 million, or nearly 46 percent of total spending,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director.

“The amount of independent spending this year is an increase of 69 percent compared to the previous high of $24.5 million,” he said. “At this rate, independent groups soon could be out-spending candidates on New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections.”

Table 1

Total Spending on Gubernatorial Election (Includes Pre-Primary, Primary and General)

YEAR CANDIDATES INDEPENDENT TOTAL COST AT THE TIME INFLATION ADJUSTED
2005 $87,724,988 $     407,748 $88,132,736 $124,815,900
2021 $48,957,465 $41,709,084 $90,666,548 $ 90,666,548
2009 $56,099,909 $14,080,168 $70,180,077 $ 90,478,739
2017 $54,588,644 $24,504,152 $79,092,796 $ 89,246,889
2001 $41,233,708 $ 6,783,119 $48,016,827 $ 75,003,481
1981 $19,493,157 $       14,600 $19,507,757 $ 59,357,877
1989 $25,978,338 $     287,000 $26,265,338 $ 58,586,319
2013 $26,821,334 $21,350,619 $48,171,953 $ 57,194,385
1997 $25,793,621   $25,793,621 $ 44,450,043
1993 $22,868,517 $     326,000 $23,194,517 $ 44,396,874

 

“We have been predicting for more than a decade that independent special interest groups that spend separately from candidates or parties have become a major force in New Jersey elections. The trend in gubernatorial elections offers perhaps the best evidence yet,” he said.

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, who won reelection, spent $16.4 million directly on his general

election campaign while former Republican Assemblyman and GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli laid out $15.8 million.

Table 2

Latest General Election Campaign Finance Activity**

CANDIDATE PARTY RAISED SPENT CASH-ON-HAND
Murphy, Phil Democrat $16,747,434 $16,393,069 $354,365
Ciattarelli, Jack Republican $16,361,174 $15,828,691 $532,483
Mele, Gregg* Libertarian $        6,000 NA NA
Hoffman, Madelyn* Green $        1,874 NA NA
Kuniansky, Joanne* Socialist Workers Party NA NA NA
TOTAL – CANDIDATES   $33,116,482 $32,221,761 $886,848
Independent Spending – General     $28,296,379  
TOTAL – GENERAL     $60,518,139  
Pre-Primary/ Primary        
Candidates- Primary     $16,735,704  
Independent Spending- Primary     $13,412,705  
TOTAL –

PRE-PRIMARY, PRIMARY AND GENERAL

     

$90,666,548

 

*Does not expect to spend more than $5,800.

**Through November 19 for candidates

 

Candidate spending was relatively even, mostly because the two major party candidates each qualified for

$10.5 million in public funds available for the general election.

Murphy enjoyed a much bigger advantage when he first won election in 2017 and outspent the Republican nominee by more than two-to-one.

Candidate spending aside, Brindle said independent spending overwhelmingly supported the governor. Brindle added: “Of the $28.3 million in independent spending on the general election, $23.7 million, or

84 percent, benefited the Democratic candidate while $4.6 million, or 16 percent, aided the Republican. As I have said for years, independent groups have become very influential in New Jersey elections.”

The biggest independent spender on the Democratic side was Our NJ, a committee set up by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which also partially funded it. It expended $8.7 million. Murphy is the finance chairman of the group.

The biggest independent spender for Ciattarelli was the Republican Governors Association, which sank

$3.8 million into the race.

 

 

Table 3

Campaign Finance Activity by Independent Spending Committees Involving Gubernatorial General Election

SUPPORTS GROUP SPENT
Murphy Our NJ $ 8,733,268
Murphy Garden State Forward (NJEA)* $ 5,538,434
Ciattarelli Republican Governors Association $ 3,808,013
Murphy Committee to Build the Economy $ 2,938,127
Murphy Democratic Governors Association** $ 2,283,268
Murphy Working for Working Americans (Carpenters)*** $ 1,500,000
Murphy Carpenters Action Fund*** $ 1,000,000
Murphy Growing Economic Opportunities (Laborers)*** $     900,000
Ciattarelli Garden State Rescue $     499,273
Murphy New Direction for New Jersey $     401,037
Ciattarelli Fix NJ Now $     286,233
Murphy United HERE TIP State and Local Fund*** $     150,000
Murphy NJ League of Conservation Voters $     100,000
Murphy UA Political Action Fund $       75,000
Murphy Tech for Campaigns $       39,236
Murphy International Brotherhood of Teamsters $       32,040
Murphy NEA (National Education Association) Advocacy Fund $       12,450
  Totals $28,296,379

*Gave $2.5 million to Our NJ and $2.5 million to Build the Economy

**Contributed $1,983,268 to Our NJ and $300,000 to Turnout Project

***Contributions to Our NJ

 

 

The Republican Governors Association outspent the Democratic Governors Association by more than

$1 million.

Both groups spent heavily the final week of the campaign.

 

 

Table 4

Spending in New Jersey by Democratic and Republican Governors Associations During 2021 Election

  DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS

ASSOCIATION

REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS

ASSOCIATION

BOTH ASSOCIATIONS1
Independent Spending      
Direct Independent Spending   $3,808,013  
DGA Contribution to Our NJ $1,983,268    
DGA Contribution to Turnout Project $ 300,000    
Total Independent Spending $2,283,268 $3,808,013 $6,091,281
Contributions to Candidates or Parties      
County Parties $ 383,500    
Democratic State Committee Or Legislative Leadership PACs $     50,000    
Local candidates $     15,600    
Total Contributions to Candidates or Parties $ 449,100   $ 449,100
Total All Spending $2,732,368 $3,808,013 $6,540,381

 

This analysis is based on 20-day post-election candidate reports due by November 22 that reflect their campaign finance activity through November 19. Independent spending totals are based on any reports filed as recently as November 22.

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