Are pay-to-play laws having any effect? Jeff Brindle, executive director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, believes so. “Many contractors are so afraid of violating the law that they have just stopped making political contributions entirely.” Brindle notes that contractor contributions have fallen by half since peaking in 2007, although donations are now going to political action committees and independent groups.
Other than local races, 2015 was a year in which only the state Assembly was up for election. Contractors gave campaign contributions of $8.3 million to New Jersey candidates in 2015, a decline of 15 percent from the year before. Yet the total value of contracts reported by business entities subject to the pay-to-play laws was $8.17 billion — an increase of 18 percent. State contracts totaled $6.4 billion, or 78 percent of all contracts awarded in the state.
Meanwhile, eight of the top 10 recipients were at the county level — in most cases freeholders. They were the Democratic Gloucester county slate of Damminger, Chila and Jefferson; the Burlington GOP slate of Gibbs and Peters: the Republican slate of Bartlett and Little of Ocean County; Democrats Ron Rios and Jim Polos of Middlesex County; Democrats Mirabella, Jalloh and Bergen in Union County and Democrat Jeff Nash of Camden County. Elaine Flynn, Middlesex county clerk, also was in the top 10 when it came to contributions, as well as the Constructors for Good Government PAC and America Leads, Gov. Chris Christie’s federal super PAC.
The engineering firm of Remington & Vernick Engineers was the biggest giver, at $474,100, followed by another engineering firm, CME Associates ($423,400).
For more information, see the ELEC site.