No one would be surprised to learn that lobbying is a lucrative business in New Jersey, with firms earning nearly $54 million in receipts from companies looking to influence the governor and state legislators. Issues last year ranged from perennial Garden State subjects like casino gambling, school reform, development, and biopharmaceuticals to more topical issues such as energy pipelines, gun control, and healthcare reform.
The following list is a ranking of lobbyists by how much money they raked in from clients. There is another list, which can be found at the state Election Law Enforcement Commission’s website, thaton behalf of clients last year. That $60.2 million list is slightly different than this one -- although most of the same names appear on both -- and includes special-interest groups like the New Jersey Education Association, Americans for Prosperity, and AARP.
The best indication of sheer power in Trenton, however, seems to be the list of lobbying receipts. Here are the top 10 entries:
Headed up by Dale Florio, widely known as the top lobbyist in the state, this firm had a whopping $9.44 million in receipts in 2013, far higher than second-ranked Public Strategies Impact. Florio is a former Somerset County GOP chairman and was an active member of the campaigns of Govs. Chris Christie and Christine Todd Whitman. Last year, PPAG spent $3.37 million on behalf of its many clients, which include Cablevision, NBC Universal, NRG Energy, the NJ Association of Mortgage Brokers, NJ Association of Health Plans, sports-betting interests, charter schools, and the state troopers association. Its largest client was for-profit healthcare provider Prime Healthcare Services, which is looking to buy three New Jersey hospitals and paid them $240,000. Its second-largest client? The Balloon Council, which is battling legislation across the country that would make it illegal to release balloons into the air.
The lobbying firm of dual political powerbrokers Harold Hodes, a prominent Democrat who served as Gov. Brendan Byrne’s chief of staff, and Republican Roger Bodman, who served in the cabinet of Gov. Thomas Kean, had client receipts of $6.3 million last year. They were also third in lobbying spending (behind Princeton and the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association). Among its clients are Wells Fargo, UTZ Foods, Teach for America, and many travel-related organizations such as the NJ Hotel Lodging Association and the NJ Travel Industry. But their two largest clients were AIA-NJ, the New Jersey Society of Architects, and the Williams Companies. AIA-NJ is monitoring legislation involving new regulations in building requirements after Hurricane Sandy and is also interested in transportation legislation. The Williams Companies is the largest builder of gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure -- a hot issue in this state.
A large firm with many partners, MBI Gluckshaw has both Democrats and Republicans in its stable and boasts four former cabinet members and four former legislators. MBI had receipts of $4.38 million last year and spent $2.24 million on behalf of its clients. These include many large multinationals such as American Express, Coca Cola, and Federal Express, as well as NJ-centric business such as Jersey Central Power & Light, Fishermen's Energy, the NJ Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association, and the NJ Charter Schools Association. Two of its largest clients, Motor Coach Industries and Clever Devices, sell public buses and technology for transit bus systems.
Cofounded by Patrizia “Trish” Zita and Adam Kaufman both worked in a number of posts for the Democrats of the New Jersey legislature or executives. Zita, who is the managing partner, also worked as a lobbyist for the Chemical Industry Council of NJ. They were paid $2.2 million by clients in 2013. Their two largest clients were CPV Shore, a clean energy company, and the Independent Energy Producers of NJ, which is the trade association for generators of electricity.
The lobbying arm of the Newark-based law firm giant took in $1.9 million last year. Among its largest clients were Cablevision, Virtua Health, and Atlantic City Electric. Headed up by attorney David Filipelli, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.
Not a contract-lobbying firm but rather a trade association for biopharmaceutical and medical technologies, HINJ nevertheless showed up as sixth on the list of state lobbyists. With $1.9 in receipts from its members, HINJ directly spent $290,000 on lobbying last year.
The relatively new firm of Pete Cammarano, chief of staff to former Gov. Richard Codey -- and not to be confused with the disgraced former Hoboken mayor of the same name. Cammarano’s William Layton is a Republican and was executive director of the New Jersey Concrete and Aggregate Association. Jon Bombardieri was executive director and policy advisor to the New Jersey Assembly Democrats. The firm pulled in $1.65 million in receipts last year, with its biggest clients being AT&T and Borgata, the Atlantic City casino.
The only firm on the list without a web presence. Optimus was formed in the past few years by longtime lobbyist Jeffrey Michaels, a former legislator and chief of staff to Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, and Philip Norcross, brother to South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross and state Sen. Donald Norcross. In 2013, Optimus garnered $1.5 million from its clients and spent $1.9 million on their behalf. They included the Casino Association of New Jersey, Comcast, and United Healthcare Services.
Ranked second among law firms with lobbying interests, Riker Danzig took in $1.2 million in client receipts last year. Its clients include Freehold Raceway, Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail), and Cigna.
With receipts of about $1 million, longtime lobbyist Gene Mulroy and his partner Gerville “Gerry” Gibbs Jr. round out the top ten lobbyists in the state. The firm’s largest client last year was Honeywell, which won $40 million in tax credits from the state’s Economic Development Authority for agreeing to move five miles away from its current headquarters in Morris Township. The company had threatened to move to Lehigh Valley, PA if it was not awarded the tax credit.