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County organization spending most in a decade

By David Wildstein

New Jersey’s Democratic and Republican county organizations spent at least $14.1 million in the 2017 election — the most in almost a decade, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

ELEC executive director Jeff Brindle says the upturn in county party fundraising came as a result of national interest in New Jersey and Virginia — the only statewide elections last year.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) was the largest donor to county parties, contributing $703,000.  Other top Democratic party donors included the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Non-Partisan PAC ($653,000), NJ Laborers PAC ($629,000), the Democratic National Committee ($444,000) and CWA NJ PEC ($405,500).

Republican organizations had significantly less coming in.  GOPAC gave $130,000.  One of the largest donors to GOP organizations was Rep. Thomas MacArthur (R-Toms River), whose campaign contributed $74,000.

“I’m sure most county chair-people last year were thrilled to receive the flood of large checks from national party committees, unions, state parties and candidates. But the fact that county party spending increased last year will not reverse the overall downward trend in financial activity experienced over the last several years,” Brindle said.

Brindle notes that the $14.1 million is nothing compared to the $27 million that was spent in 2003, when Democrats regained control of the New Jersey Senate.

“Hopefully, Governor Murphy’s administration and the Legislature will give serious consideration to enacting ELEC-recommended reforms that could help reinvigorate county and state parties in New Jersey while offsetting the influence of independent groups,” said Brindle.  ELEC has advocated Changes like  excluding party committees from pay-to-play fundraising constraints, letting state parties participate in gubernatorial elections, allowing county parties to give to each other even during primaries and requiring more disclosure by independent special interest committees.

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