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The New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Lobbying expenditures hit new high amid pandemic last year

By Nikita Biryukov, March 09 2021 11:05 am

Spending on lobbyists in the Garden State hit a record high last year as lawmakers moved to react to the pandemic, according to data released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Tuesday.

Groups spent a record $105 million on lobbying in 2020, an increase of roughly 3.4% from the just under $102 million spend in 2019.

The New Jersey Education Association again topped the list, spending roughly $6.26 million, about $15,000 more than they spend in 2019.

New Direction New Jersey, an issues advocacy non-profit created to boost Gov. Phil Murphy’s agenda and run by his allies, came in second with just under $5 million spent as the governor prepares to run for re-election, an increase from the $3.9 million the group spent in 2019.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield spent almost than $4.3 million last year. Much of that money, about $2.8 million, went to Move Health Care Forward NJ, a group created and bankrolled by the insurer to lobby for the passage of a bill allowing the firm to become a mutual holding company, a move supporters said would reduce its tax burden and allow it to compete against for-profit insurers.

The Engineers Labor Employer Cooperative was the only other group to cross $1 million in spending last year. They spent about $1.25 million, up from $682,697 the year prior.

The increases are unsurprising, Brindle said.

“Given the unprecedented nature of this crisis, it follows that there would be a major legislative and executive response as well as heavy engagement by the lobbying community,” he said.

The Princeton Public Affairs Group remained the state’s top lobbying firm, bringing in a little more than $10 million last year, more than one-sixth of last year’s lobbying receipts.

The nearly $60 million spent on lobbyists in 2020 was concentrated among a small number of firms. The state’s top 10 lobbying firms brought in just shy of $39 million, nearly two-thirds of all lobbying expenditures.

Public Strategies Impact came in second, with $7.1 million in receipts, followed by CLB Partners and MBI Gluckshaw at about $3.9 million and $3.8 million, respectively. The Kaufman Zita Group received a little less than $3.2 million, while Gibbons PC brought in about $3.1 million.

Lobbying firms’ spending on communications also jumped sharply, increasing by about 32% over 2019’s figures. They spent about $18 million on ads and other marketing, with almost all of that money, $16.9 million, made by a small group of firms.

The NJEA, New Direction New Jersey and Move Health Care Forward NJ topped that list with $5.9 million, $5 million and $3.2 million in spending, respectively.

A Previous version of this article misstated spending by Horizon and Move Healthcare Forward NJ. 

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