Few people, except perhaps billionaires, count 2020 as a good year financially. County political party committees in New Jersey are no exception; they notched their second-smallest fund-raising total in 12 years, according to preliminary data from the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). All told, the committees raised about $6.9 million last year.
The COVID-19 connection is inescapable. According to ELEC, many fund-raising events were canceled or delayed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Jersey last March. Later in the year, officials were able to adjust their fund-raising.
“I’m sure party leaders knew they had to start picking things up since this year’s election features a race for governor, all 120 legislative seats and multiple county posts,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director. “We all were knocked off balance when the pandemic first swept the state. It is a testament to the resiliency of party officials that they have been able to bounce back somewhat.”
The report also notes that both the Democratic and Republican parties have been raising less and spending less than four years ago. But Democratic declines were smaller compared to Republicans.
In 2016, Democrats raised about $5.2 million and spent $4.8 million; Republicans raised about $3 million and spent $3.3 million. In 2020, Democrats raised about $4.9 million and spent $4.2 million whereas Republicans only raised about $1.9 million and spent about the same. Democrats also had a lot more “cash-on-hand,” or cash reserves.
In general, both parties are raising far less money than they did in the early 2000s because of laws restricting donations from public contractors and independent special-interest groups competing for donations.
Brindle says recommendations from ELEC, if instituted, should make it easier for county and state officials to raise money and to shift contributions from “dark money.”