The 2009 gubernatorial and assembly election saw a dramatic hike in spending by political action committees (PACs), and nearly $24 million — or 68 percent of PAC spending — was by unions, according to the New Jersey Law Enforcement Election Commission. The union-based PAC contributions dwarfed all other groups, with professional organizations making up 11 percent of the PAC pool and trade associations and ideological PACs each contributing 5 percent. Overall election spending by PACs was more than $35 million — a 38 percent jump over 2008. Oddly enough, most of that money did not go directly to the gubernatorial committees but to state parties and legislative, county and local races.
Heading up the list of Top 25 PAC contributors was the NJ State Laborers, which contributed $1,247,275 — the bulk of which ($826,835) went to county and local races. (That figure does not include an additional $500,000 donation by the Laborer’s Political League to grassroots lobbying activity related to the governor’s contest.) The second-largest PAC contributor was the NJ Education Association, which spent $525,000 on the gubernatorial race and $602,145 on the state parties and legislative races, for a total of $1,127,858. In addition, a separate NJEA committee contributed $744,512 to local school board elections. The NJ State Carpenters political education committee provided $1,079,590. And the AFSCME public employees committee spent $907,366 in addition to a $2.25 million donation directly to the Democratic Governor’s Association and a $1.75 million donation to grassroots lobbying activity related to the governor’s race.