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The New Jersey Democratic State Committee spent more than $1.2 million on overhead in the first 10 months of 2019, at least four times as much as it spent on races in the state, a New Jersey Globe examination of the committee’s campaign finance filings found.
The largest share of the state party’s spending, at least $566,459.62, went to consultants, most often in the form of monthly payments.
The DSC spent $560,647.22 on more routine operating expenditures like payroll, taxes, insurance, utilities and database services.
It also spent at least $67,577.08 on travel expenses.
The New Jersey Globe’s analysis of the state party’s overhead does not include spending from reports to committee filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission because it is not immediately clear from filings whether funds went to party-building efforts or other overhead costs.
Spending figures for the state’s races were drawn exclusively from the state-level filings.
Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for the state party, said the state committee’s spending was benefiting New Jersey Democrats.
“Our expenditures on staff, consultants and programs are designed to support our party’s mission of engaging with our base voters on a variety of platforms, while also expanding our reach to new audiences,” he said. “These expenditures are consistent with how other comparable state parties allocate their resources, and at the same time, NJDSC has provided significantly more direct financial and operational support to local and county candidates and parties than ever before.”
The committee made at least $403,151.02 in expenditures tied directly to state, county and local races or other party organizations.
The bulk of those payments, $283,351.02, were made in the closing weeks of the General election.
The largest share of the committee’s payments to consultants went to The Cratos Group, a consulting firm ran by Adam Alonso, a former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Phil Murphy who has remained within the governor’s orbit as an outside advisor since leaving the administration last May.
The group received $140,000 in monthly payments from the state committee that were reported to the FEC this year.
Common Sense Consulting, the committee’s compliance consulting firm, came in second with $138,000.
The state party spent at least $134,763.62 on fundraising consultants, with $54,000 going to H & P Consulting and $84,673.62 to Jafri Strategies, a fundraising firm.
“This so-called ‘overhead’ includes innovative programs like Building our Future that have trained hundreds of new Democratic campaign operatives, our digital program that is helping us engage with hundreds of thousands of Democrats every week, outreach into a key base community by providing content in Spanish, and much more,” Swibinski said.
Most of the committee’s spending on races went to contests for countywide office.
The DSC spent $214,657.20 backing Democratic candidates in Somerset, Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties.
Somerset was the only one among those to host close countywide races. Democrats flipped won the sheriff’s office and a freeholder seat there this year, giving them control of a county that just three years ago was starkly Republican.
The state committee gave $62,500 to local and county organizations through November’s elections, with the largest share, $20,000, going to the Hamilton Democratic Municipal Committee.
Democrats flipped Hamilton’s mayorship and two council seats to win full control of the town this year.
The committee gave $20,350.00 directly to local Democratic candidates. Most of that money, $10,400, went to North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and his slate of council candidates for their primary against as slate headed by longtime Sacco opponent Harry Wainstein.
“We are proud of the work our party is doing to help Democrats win, and the results speak for themselves — from winning 11 of 12 Congressional seats, to taking control of county government in Somerset and Burlington counties, to helping elect Governor Murphy and Senator Menendez and much more,” Swibinski said.
The Democratic State Committee spent heavily on its annual conference in Atlantic City.
Expenditures for the annual party-building event included a $150,000 rental payment for space at Harrah’s Resort and Casino and up to $19,520.00 on bussing to an event that was headlined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and featured some of the state’s most prominent Democrats, including Murphy and Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.
Democratic State Chairman John Currie faces a challenge from Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones for control of the state party.
A New Jersey Globe tally of the race has Jones leading the incumbent 55-43. A candidate needs 49 ½ votes to win.
That race is expected to take place sometime in December.
“The New Jersey Democratic State Committee is stronger and more effective at helping Democrats win than it has been in decades thanks to the leadership of Chairman Currie, Vice Chair Schaffer and Governor Murphy,” Swibinski said.