Republicans are ecstatic that, for the first time in recent memory, their senate leadership PAC finished the year with more cash on hand than their Democratic counterparts.
But the reason for that has more to do with internal Democratic drama than with a Republican fundraising resurgence.
As a lame duck senate president, Richard Codey (D-Roseland) took $185,000 from the Senate Democratic Majority PAC and distributed it to his own election fund and the funds of a few key allies.
In November, Codey gave $75,000 to his own campaign, $50,000 to state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), $30,000 to state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) and $30,000 to state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence). All three remained supporters of Codey for senate president, even after it was clear that state Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) had the votes lined up to topple him. All three of them also lost their committee chairmanships to senators who supported Sweeney.
Codey said he decided to distribute the money to those senators because they were listed as possible redistricting targets in an Inside Edge item on PolitickerNJ.com.
“They were just the ones who were threatened in what we call the Norcross Gazette – Wally Edge,” said Codey.
Codey, a mortal enemy of South Jersey power broker George Norcross – who worked for years to remove him from the senate leadership post – said the column’s speculation was a clear signal that Norcross and his South Jersey Democratic had those senators in the crosshairs (An October 7 Inside Edge listed state Sen. John Girgenti (D-Hawthorne) – a Codey ally – as a possible target, but he was not a recipient of the funds).
As for the $75,000 he contributed to his own account, Codey said it was partial repayment of a $125,000 loan he gave to several South Jersey Democratic committees years ago that was never paid back.
The senate president has complete control of the Senate Democratic Majority PAC, whose war chest has expanded to several million dollars during years when all 40 senate seats are on the ballot.
Codey did not use all of the committee’s funds, as former Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria (D-Bayonne) did with the Democratic assembly leadership PAC when he was ousted by then-Assemblyman Albio Sires (D-West New York). As of January 1, the Senate Democratic PAC had about $458,000 on hand.
The Republicans’ senate leadership PAC had about $512,000 on hand, which is almost twice as much as the PAC had at the end of 2005 — the last year there was a gubernatorial race.
“I could have taken every dime. I raised $18 million over the last 10 years, practically by myself. No help from South Jersey. And I distributed the money based on where it should go,” said Codey, noting that the PAC contributed heavily state Sen. Jim Whelan’s (D-Atlantic City) senate race, despite his location far south of I-195.
Codey noted that he also gave last minute infusions of cash this year to the Bergen County Democratic Organization and the Atlantic County Democrats. He pledged to remain active in fundraising.
“Two years from now, or less, when there’s senate races, even with Mr. Christie as the governor, we will out-raise them. And despite me not being president of the senate, I will make calls to get contributors,” he said.