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The List: AARP, New Jersey’s Top Lobbyist, Spent Over $1.5 Million in 2014

Wide range of special-interest groups laid out millions trying to shape and influence legislation in Trenton

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The list of New Jersey’s top special interests when it comes to lobbying has gotten predictable in recent years, with the New Jersey Education Association always at or near the top in spending.

But 2014 proved to be an exception, with the teachers union not even making the Top 10 list and spending less than $400,000 on lobbying activities – although the union still easily led the list of political campaign contributors.

Meanwhile, a couple of other groups climbed to prominent spots of the lobbying list, with a few making the list for the first time.

Here are the state’s top special-interest groups and their lobbying expenditures in 2014, as reported by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

1. AARP NJ: $1,645,217

AARP’s New Jersey chapter doubled its spending compared to the previous year and approached its all-time record for lobbying expenses. Much of its reported focus was in the Legislature on bills such as the earned sick-leave requirement and other bills intended to help families caring for elderly relatives.

2. Honeywell International, Inc.: $780,000

The Morris County-based company is a frequent presence on the lobbying list as one of the state’s bigger employers. For 2014, Honeywell’s key lobbying work targeted NJ Transit and the state’s transportation department, according to the ELEC. Honeywell’s lobbying efforts focused on ongoing development opportunities connected with pending transportation projects.

3. Verizon NJ: $719,986

In addition to telecommunications-related bills, Verizon is another example of New Jersey companies lobbying hard to try to influence business policies and legislation in general, including the paid sick leave bill.

4. Prudential Financial Inc.: $716,340

Prudential led the way for insurers, which spent more than $4.2 million overall on lobbying and political contributions combined, the most of any special interest sector in 2014.

5. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers: $557,842

The alliance was new to the list for 2014. Its focus was on legislation pertaining to the regulation of car dealerships and, specifically, one bill that would allow the open sales of the Tesla vehicles. More than $400,000 of the total was spend on a communications campaign.

6. Public Service Enterprise Group: $530,177

Public Service – the owner of the PSE&G utility -- recently won Board of Public Utilities approval of a major energy efficiency initiative, as well as several transmission upgrades that are part of a 10-year, $8 billion project.

7. First Energy/Jersey Central Power and Light: $525,051

Among the issues concerning the utility giant in Trenton: a base-rate case argued before the BPU, and a host of directives having to do with hurricane preparation.

8. NJ State League of Municipalities: $513,407

The league is a perennial member of the list, lobbying on any number of bills that affect its member cities and towns, from infrastructure to taxation. Among the league’s key issues this year -- and also on the list of the most heavily lobbied bills statewide – were those related to the Transportation Trust Fund and the statewide open-space referendum.

9. New Jersey Hospital Association: $489,804

The NJHA is new to the list in 2014, although its presence continues a run for New Jersey’s hospitals among the biggest lobbying spenders. The association replaces Hackensack University Medical Center, which was on the list in 2013.

10. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ: $483,494

Joining Prudential on the lobbying list of major insurers, Horizon listed a number of bills and regulations where it lobbied for changes, both in the Legislature and with the Christie administration, including those related to the state health-benefits program.

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