A wide variety of businesses and other groups spent more than $70 million on lobbying activities last year, according to an analysis from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
The New Jersey Education Association was the single biggest spender, laying out more than $10.3 million. But the state also has a number of high-profile lobbying firms that represent multiple clients and are in demand because their principals are well known among lawmakers and state officials in Trenton and Washington, D.C. Fourteen firms took in fees of more than $1 million each.
Last year, there were more lobbyists — 937, up 2 percent over 2014. And firms had more clients — 2,010, up 4 percent.
These are the firms that took in the most money in fees last year and the total amount they received:
1. Princeton Public Affairs Group — $9.4 million
Led by Dale Florio and Bradley Brewster, Princeton Public Affairs also has two former legislators on staff. It has held the top spot among New Jersey lobbyists for the past 13 years. It also ranked second in spending behind the NJEA, reporting $3.7 million in expenditures last year. ELEC data shows the firm had 203 clients running. At the low end, ADPP, which owns gas stations and convenience stores, paid $700. At the high end, the Balloon Council spent more than $267,000 to hire them. The firm’s eclectic client base ranged from the popular D’Jais Bar in Belmar to the Coalition to Deter Drunken Driving.
2. Public Strategies Impact LLC — $6.4 million
This firm is led by two former gubernatorial advisers: Democrat Harold Hodes and Republican Roger Bodman. The men merged their separate firms in 1986 to create this public affairs giant in New Jersey. It spent nearly $2.8 million last year, ranking it the third biggest spender on lobbying. Public Strategies had 128 clients in 2015, ranging from the North Hanover Board of Education ($3,500 paid) to the American Institute of Architects of NJ ($240,000).
3. MBI GluckShaw — $3.8 million
Also created by the merger of two prominent firms, this public-affairs group boasts five former lawmakers, as well as former cabinet members, mayors, and other high-ranking officials. MBI GluckShaw had 91 clients, including Verizon and Century Link, Six Flags Great Adventure, and the New Jersey Deer Farmers Association. The nearly $2.1 million it spent ranked it fourth in the state last year.
4. Gibbons PC — $2.64 million
This is a lawyer-lobbying firm, with its main office in Newark but its government affairs section in Trenton near the Statehouse. Gibbons spent close to $1.1 million on lobbying last year, placing it eighth in the state. The firm had 39 clients. Its biggest was Grant Thornton LLP, an accounting and auditing firm.
5. Cammarano, Layton and Bombardieri Partners — $2.61 million
This firm took in slightly less in fees than Gibbons, but had more clients — 47 — and spent more, nearly $1.3 million, making it the seventh-biggest spender last year. Its diverse group of clients include Yahoo ($60,000), Dave and Buster’s ($60,000), and the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa ($108,000).
6. Kaufman Zita Group LLC — $2.5 million
With one former Assemblyman and former legislative and state party staff as lobbyists, Kaufman Zita had 46 clients last year. The Independent Energy Producers of NJ was its largest client ($250,000). Kaufman Zita ranked 10th in total expenditures, spending about $890,000.
7. Optimus Partners LLC — $1.8 million
Founded six years ago by Jeff Michaels, former state GOP and Senate Republican staffer and chief of staff to Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, and Philip Norcross, the brother of a congressman and the man considered South Jersey’s Democratic party boss, this firm was the sixth-biggest spender statewide ($1.4 million). It had 18 clients, the largest of which was the Casino Association of New Jersey ($175,000).
8. MWW Group — $1.5 million
With offices in both Trenton and East Rutherford, five other U.S. cities and London, this firm reported 36 clients to the New Jersey’s ELEC. Its largest was Amaya Gaming ($110,000).
9. Capital Impact Group — $1.3 million
Located across the street from the Statehouse, Capital Impact had 31 clients last year. The largest of these was Honeywell, a Fortune 100 company ($228,000).
10. Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland and Perretti LLP — $1.2 million
This well-known law firm also does lobbying. It had 40 clients last year, with the largest being the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America ($108,000).