With gubernatorial elections looming in 36 states, Gov. Chris Christie has so far helped to raise $90 million for the Republican Governors Association, with money coming from conservative milionaires, multinational corporations and New Jersey firms that do business with government.
Much of the money, records show, is used to run negative TV ads against Democrats.
The most recent filings from the Internal Revenue Service, released Wednesday evening, show that Wal-mart ($375,000), Altria ($102,233) and the National Rifle Association ($135,000) have all given significants sums this year. Private investment firms are big donors, with ETC Capital in Michigan supplying $2.5 million alone. Christie also benefited from New Jersey sources, like pharmaceutical companies based in the Garden State along with engineering, law and lobbying firms that work with government and often donate to New Jersey politicians.
The two companies that run New Jersey’s lottery system after Christie privatized it last year — GTech and Scientific Games — gave a combined $100,000. And Ashbritt, which Christie hired last year for a no-bid Sandy clean-up controversy, triggering much controversy, also donated $100,000.
Christie also got significant sums from two men who had lobbied Christie to get into the 2012 presidential race — New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer ($1.35 million) and Iowa hog-and-ethanol baron Bruce Rastetter ($20,000).
The money is used almost entirely to support Republican governors running for election. The latest data from the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog group, indicates that the RGA has spent $19.7 million on ads that have run 46,600 times in 16 states. Almost 90 percent of those ads are classifed as “negative,” meaning they were more focused on attacking Democrats than promoting the Republicans.
RGA money also spends money on opposition research, like embarrassing videos of Democrats. The RGA has spent nearly $70,000 this year on video footage from America Rising, a Republican firm that tracks Democratic candidates to capture them saying things that can be exploited in negative TV ads.
The RGA’s tax designation mandates that it must disclose its donors. But it has a sister group, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit called the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is not required to disclose its donors, many of which are corporations. The IRS filings show that the RGA is now getting a significant amount of money from this so-called “dark money” group — $665,000 this year alone.
The Center for Public Integrity says that more is being spent this year on gubernatorial elections than Senate elections.