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The State House in Trenton. (Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Independent expenditures jump in Jersey

By Nikita Biryukov, September 12 2018 11:33 am

Third-party expenditures continue to rise in New Jersey, jumping by more than 55% between 2013 and 2017, according to a report released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

In 2013, the state’s top 25 special interest groups threw $26 million in independent spending at issues in the state. In 2017, that number ballooned to more than $41 million.

“In the past, special interest groups used lobbying and political action committees as their main vehicle for influencing public policy,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director. “During the last decade, independent groups have quickly become their preferred weapon. The top 25 groups alone spent more on independent spending last year ($41.4 million) than all estimated PAC spending ($28.9 million) on state and local elections.”

First among the 25 groups was the New Jersey Education Association, which made roughly $8.5 million in independent expenditures in 2017.

While the rise in the independent spending of these groups may suggest a general shift in strategy, less than half of them – 12 of the top 25 – actually made any such expenditures, meaning that 12 firms accounted for 83% of the independent spending in the state.

Those numbers, as well as the gross spending figures, fall when examining the groups’ lobbying and political contributions. The top 25 groups spent close to $20 million on campaign contributions and $13 million on lobbying, 68% and 14% of the state totals, respectively.

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