In 2018, New Jersey’s Democratic and Republican parties spent the most money in a federal election year since 2012 — $5.4 million, via their so-called Big Six committees. That left them with combined reserves of $1.5 million heading into this fall’s legislative elections, when all 80 Assembly seats will be on the ballot. (The Big Six are the Democratic State Committee, Republican State Committee, and corresponding committees for each party in the state Senate and Assembly.)
Reports sent to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) show that the two state parties and four legislative leadership committees raised $6.2 million and spent $5.4 million last year — mostly on the federal congressional elections.
Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director, said it’s normal for party coffers to be depleted after an election year. He noted that the two state parties, which were the biggest spenders in 2018, ended up with the smallest cash reserves of the Bix Six — $117,803 for the Republican State Committee and $102,682 for the Democratic State Committee.
A year ago, after the governor’s seat and all 120 legislative seats were decided in 2017, the Big Six committees had $738,454 in combined cash-on-hand versus $1.5 million this year. “Perhaps not surprisingly, the two committees with the most at stake this fall carried over the largest balances among their respective parties,” said Brindle. “The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee reported $635,823 as of December 31 while the Assembly Republican Victory Committee reported $187,031.”
If the data shows anything else it is that money follows power — or perhaps that’s just a coincidence. For the Democrats — who now control the governorship and both legislative houses — fund-raising has improved since just a few years ago, when Republican Chris Christie occupied the governor’s office. Democratic fund-raising, spending, cash-on-hand and net worth all were up compared to 2014. Meanwhile, Republican fund-raising, spending and cash on-hand were down compared to four years ago, though net worth was up slightly.
“During the past decade, there has been a tremendous shift in influence from parties and candidates to independent groups,” Brindle said. Pending legislation recommended by ELEC that requires disclosure by independent committees and increases contribution limits for candidates and parties would boost the fortunes of party committees. “Hopefully, these legislative changes will create a better balance by helping to restore influence to the parties,” he added.
In fact, a bill including ELEC’s recommendations on disclosure, among other provisions, cleared its first hurdle in a Senate committee yesterday. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee unanimously released S-1500, sending it to the floor of the Senate. This follows Senate President Steve Sweeney’s recent announcement of support for requiring dark money groups to disclose their donors.