Lobbying spending off in 2012

Lobbying expenditures statewide hit a five-year low in 2012, owing largely to a far scaled-back effort from the state’s largest teachers union.

Overall, a total of $56.5 million was spent lobbying lawmakers in 2012, down a whopping $17 million from 2011.  But more than half of the drop came from one source, the New Jersey Education Association, which in 2011 spent more than $11 million in an effort to bloody Gov. Chris Christie as Christie sought education reforms untenable to the union.

This year, the NJEA spent just $409,000 on its lobbying efforts, with just over $90,000 spent on communications.

“NJEA has long been one of the state’s major lobbyists. But its spending – and overall lobbying totals – reached unprecedented levels in 2010 and 2011 due to major ad campaigns by the teachers union,’’ said Education Law Enforcement Commission Executive Director Jeff Brindle.

But after working with the governor on education reforms over the past year, the union scaled back, Brindle said.

“Not surprisingly, the association returned to a more normal level of spending,” Brindle said.

Overall in 2012, PSE&G topped the list of lobbying outlays at $863,073, followed closely by the New Jersey Hospital Association at $817,266.  Honeywell International, Barnabas Health, Verizon NJ, AARP, Prudential Financial, CSC Holdings, the New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association rounded out the top ten in spending.

Once again, Princeton Public Affairs Group was the top grossing lobbying firm in the state, bringing in $8.3 million in fees for the year. Public Strategies Impact Group was the second highest earner at $6.09 million, while MBI Gluck Shaw was third at $4.1 million.

“The most important factor in driving down lobbying activity last year was the lack of any riveting issue,’’ Brindle said. “This factor, more than anything else, explains why lobbying activity goes up one year and down the next.  Economic conditions also may impact lobbying activity to some degree. But lobbying dramatically increased in 2011 when the economy was worse. That shows issues matter more.’’

Still, the year was not unkind to all.  Optimus Partners, the firm run by Christie insider Jeff Michaels and Phil Norcross, younger brother of South Jersey power broker George Norcross, jumped into the top 10 this year, pulling in $1.3 million, up almost $500,000 over 2011.

Other lobbying shops, including Fox and Shuffler, 1868 Public Affairs, Cammarano and Layton and Komjathy and Stewart all bosted their revenues in 2012.

Lobbying spending off in 2012