The net worth of the political party with more money at the end of 2012 is shown in shades of red or blue. Outlined in orange are those counties with more registered Republicans that lean Republican in voting and in light blue those with more Democrats that lean Democratic. Monmouth, outlined in purple, is split, with more registered Democrats but leaning Republican in voting.
Source: Analysis of data from N.J. Election Law Enforcement Commission and N.J. Division of Elections
An abundance of enthusiastic voters doesn’t necessarily translate into overflowing financial coffers for political parties.
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission’s summary of political fundraising activities for 2012 bears out this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon.
For instance, the Democratic county committees in staunchly Republican Hunterdon and Sussex counties ended the year in better financial shape than their GOP counterparts.
Similarly, the Republicans had greater net worth – cash on hand minus debts — in heavily Democratic Middlesex and Hudson counties, although in the case of Hudson it’s only because while the GOP had almost no money, the Democrats were more than $240,000 in debt. That negative net worth was the largest for either party in any county.
The richest party was the Burlington County Republicans, with a net worth of more than $560,000, which could have implications for this fall’s legislative elections. The 7th District, where most of the county lies, is one of only two in the state with split representation and the contests for the Assembly seats, now filled by two Democrats, have been close: Fewer than 1,300 votes kept the Republican, who came in third in the race, out of the lower house. Burlington Republicans have not only a large monetary lead coming into this year’s race – the Burlington Democrats ended the year more than $90,000 in debt – but will also have the popular Republican Gov. Chris Christie atop the ballot this year, which could give them an extra boost.
Of the county Democratic parties, Passaic’s ended the year with the greatest net worth – nearly $310,000.
In addition to Burlington and Hudson, the Monmouth Democratic party also ended the year with a negative net worth. On the Republican side, only Monmouth’s GOP finished 2012 with more debts than cash.
According to ELEC, the county parties in total raised more than $6.2 million and spent almost $5.8 million last year, which would be the lowest spending activity in at least a decade.
The totals are likely higher, however, because several of the county committees have not yet filed their 2012 fourth-quarter reports, which were due Jan. 15. Democratic committees raised and spent more than Republicans and had more cash on hand, as well, but because of larger debts the two parties’ county arms ended the year with roughly equivalent net worths.
In 2002, the parties’ activities were far greater – raising a combined $21.6 million and spending almost $20 million. There are several reasons for the difference, according to Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director.
“These include a sharp reduction in contributions by public contractors due to tough pay-to-play laws enacted mid-decade and the sluggish economy,” he said. “Other reasons include more spending by independent groups, including political action committees that essentially are party subsidiaries, and the loss of support from two wealthy gubernatorial candidates who previously gave large sums to county parties.”
At the same time, the state GOP and Democratic parties and the PACs controlled by the parties’ leaders in each house of the Legislature raised more than $7 million and spent $6.4 million, ending the year with a combined net worth of $1.5 million. The Republicans raised and spent more, and had slightly more cash on hand to start 2013.
To see the summaries for the parties in any county, click on it. To look at any of the PAC reports in depth, go to the ELEC website.