Upsurge in N.J. campaign fund-raising

New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney listens, left, as Senate candidate Newark Mayor Cory Booker addresses a gathering of supporters at an event in Deptford Township on June 18.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney listens, left, as Senate candidate Newark Mayor Cory Booker addresses a gathering of supporters at an event in Deptford Township on June 18. (MEL EVANS / Associated Press)
Posted: July 04, 2013

Candidates seeking state offices in November have raised $52 million this cycle - nearly double the amount raised in 2009 - in part because of the greater involvement of outside groups, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

The comparison is not perfect: Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a former Wall Street executive, spent much more of his own money than he raised in his failed 2009 reelection bid, and the Senate did not hold elections that year. This year, the Assembly, Senate, and governorship all are up for election.

Nevertheless, special interest groups have already raised an estimated $15 million this cycle, or $1 million more than they spent for the entire 2009 election, according to ELEC. (Many of the groups do not have to disclose their fund-raising, so it is difficult to know the precise numbers.)

"Even if the independent primary spending four years ago actually was twice as much," Jeff Brindle, ELEC's executive director, said in a statement, "the current spending still would be a new high."

The amounts analyzed by ELEC do not include the special U.S. Senate primary elections scheduled for August in which the candidates include high-profile Newark Mayor Cory Booker on the Democratic side and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan on the GOP side.

Republican Gov. Christie has raised $6.9 million, more than twice as much as his opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono, who has raised about $3 million.

The proliferation of outside organizations - many of them tax-exempt 501(c)(4) nonprofit social-welfare groups - exacerbates that disparity.

The Committee for Our Children's Future, a pro-Christie group that has spent millions supporting the Republican governor on TV-ad buys, has spent $7.8 million.

One New Jersey, a 501(c)(4) anti-Christie group, has spent $2.8 million, according to ELEC.

Perhaps most striking, the Republican Governors Association has contributed $1.7 million to Christie, while Buono has received only $3,700 in in-kind donations from the Democratic Governors Association. If reelected, Christie is in line to become chairman of the association.

"The RGA is really becoming a surrogate in fund-raising. . . . That really has been a funnel through which campaign donors can circumvent state election law," said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University.

"I don't think that the Democratic Governors Association has taken on the fund-raising role the extent to which the RGA has."


Contact Andrew Seidman

at 856-779-3846 or aseidman@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @AndrewSeidman.

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