GOP ‘Big Three’ outraise, outspend Democrats in 2011

Republican leadership committees outraised and outspent their Democratic counterparts last year as the GOP tried furiously to pick up seats in the Legislature.

According to the latest reports from the Election Law Enforcement Commission, the so-called “Big Six” committees, which include both parties’ leadership Political Action Committees and both parties’ state committees, spent more than $15 million in 2011 when all 120 seats in the state Legislature were up for election.

Republican committees outraised Democrats by about $1.3 million over the year, led by the GOP state committee, which raised more than $5.5 million behind the nationwide popularity of Gov. Chris Christie, who raised much of the money from donors in other states.

Ultimately, the Republicans fell short in their state election efforts, maintaining the status quo in the Senate, while losing a seat in the Assembly.  The GOP did pick up several county and local seats in the election.

For Democrats, the state committee also led the way, bringing in more than $3.2 million.

Republicans maintain about $800,000 on hand against about $200,000 for Democrats.  This year will see at least two special elections – in the 16th and 26th legislative Districts and possibly one in the 4th District, where Democrat Gabriela Mosquera sits in limbo while the Supreme Court decides on a residency issue.

Continuing a trend that has played out over the past year, Republican fundraising rose since 2007, the last time all 120 seats were up, while the Democrats’ haul dropped significantly.

In 2007, the three GOP committees brought in $6.4 million against $12.7 million for Democrats.  In 2011, the GOP take topped $8 million, while Democrats’ fell to $6.8 million.

“The latest reports from the “Big Six” committees provide further evidence of a trend we saw all last year- overall fundraising and spending are down from 2007,’’ said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director.

Brindle said he believes that pay to play restrictions are the main factor behind the overall drop. 

“There are other factors as well. The economy. The fact that former Governor Jon Corzine no longer is a major contributor to Democrats. And the growing fundraising by independent groups outside the political establishment,’’ he said.

GOP ‘Big Three’ outraise, outspend Democrats in 2011