Interactive Map: Tracking Christie’s Cash from People, PACs and Super PACs

Colleen O'Dea | August 7, 2015 | Map of the Week, Maps
Governor’s coffers gained more than $14M in first six months of 2015, including millions from New Jersey

Two federal political action committees affiliated with Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign effort took in more than $14 million in the first half of the year, with more than a quarter of that coming from New Jersey, according to federal election data.

Christie’s Leadership Matters for America PAC, created Jan. 23 with Christie as its “honorary chairman,” reported $3.4 million in contributions through June 30, while America Leads, the Super PAC supporting him, got $11 million between its creation on Feb. 23 and June 30.

The governor’s actual presidential committee, Chris Christie for President, filed its incorporation papers with the Federal Election Commission on July 1 and so has not yet had to submit any financial reports..

But in today’s federal election system, Super PACs play a much bigger role because these are the committees that can accept unlimited amounts from businesses as well as individuals.

Federal regulations limit individual contributions to candidates to $2,700 per election. The limit is $5,000 annually per individual to other campaign commitees or regular PACs, such as Leadership Matters.

PACs can’t make direct contributions to campaign commitees, while businesses can’t make direct contributions to either campaign committees or PACs.

One advantage of regular PACs is that, subject to limits, they can pay for certain campaign costs, such as travel. In addition, since Leadership Matters is considered to be his “leadership committee,” Christie can decide how to use its resources.

Contributions to Gov. Christie PACs
Contributions to Gov. Christie PACs

Contributions to PACs related to Gov. Christie's presidential campaign. Search by one or more fields

The advantage of Super PACs like America Leads is that, thanks to the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, there are no limits on how much individuals and businesses can contribute to them and they can spend unlimited amounts in support of Christie’s candidacy — although its activities cannot be coordinated with his campaign and the Super PAC cannot give money directly to the campaign.

America Leads can also spend unlimited amounts to back Christie, but cannot legally coordinate with his campaign or give money directly to it. Leadership Matters can pay for certain campaign costs, such as travel, but is subject to limits.

Day-to-day campaign expenses and operations costs – such as staff salaries — are paid by the Christie for President committee.

An analysis of data from the mid-year election filing by America Leads, provided by the Sunlight Foundation, shows that 60 percent of the $11 million it collected came from three states: almost $4 million from New Jersey, $2.6 million from Connecticut and $2.1 million from New York. It had a total of 157 contributions, the largest being $1 million each from hedge fund manager Steven Cohen and his wife Alexandra of Greenwich, CT, and $1 million from Winecup-Gamble Inc., a Nevada ranch owned by Paul Fireman, the former CEO of Reebok who has proposed building a 95-story casino hotel along the Jersey City waterfront.

So far, the PACs have not attracted much money from the states that will choose their party nominees early next year, states Christie has visited extensively. Leadership Matters got one $500 contribution from New Hampshire, which Christie has visited 29 times since his re-election as governor. Neither PAC reported any contributions from Iowa, where Christie has spent at least part of 15 days since November 2013.

In a statement announcing the filing of the report, America Leads spokesman Tucker Martin said, “We are extremely appreciative of the strong support America Leads received over the last quarter. Americans are responding to Governor Chris Christie’s positive record of results and his bold, optimistic vision for the future of our country. He simply ‘Tells it like it is’ and his message and vision are resonating.”

During that period, America Leads reported only $266,000 in spending. Since then, however, the Super PAC has reported spending $2.1 million on television ads for Christie.

Within New Jersey, Newark’s 07101 and Park Ridge’s 07656 ZIP codes provided the most money to the PACs — $250,000 each. In each case, one firm was responsible for the donation: Public Service Enterprise Group in Newark and Complete Medical Project Management in Park Ridge. PSEG was barred from giving to Christie’s state campaigns because it is a utility subject to state regulation.

Some companies that have contracts with the state of New Jersey also gave to Christie’s Super PAC, including Ferreira Construction, which gave $100,000, and George Harms Construction and the law firm Sills, Cummis, Gross, which gave $25,000 each.