A group of Middlesex County based Political Action Committees that were active in the latter part of the last decade and early part of this one, were largely dormant in 2012, the latest figures from the Election Law Enforcement Commission show.
The PACs, which go by catchy good government names like Democracy in Motion and Coalition for Government Efficiency, were the recipients of just over $80,000 in donations from the state’s public contractors in 2012, down from over $480,000 in 2001 and $350,000 in 2010.
The drop in donations to the Middlesex PACs accounts for nearly 60 percent of the overall $700,000 decline in PAC donations from 2011 to 2012.
According to ELEC records and interviews with more than a dozen Middlesex County sources, the PACs are used to circumvent state and local laws banning pay to play and are operated by state Sen. Bob Smith, according to Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Peter Barnes.
Smith denies that he has any role with the PACs, saying they are operated independently of each other.
But over the past six years, millions have been contributed directly to the PACs by dozens of vendors who do business with state, county and local governments. The PACs in turn donate the money to state, county and local officials, allowing the vendors to steer clear of campaign finance violations.
In some cases, vendors have maxed out on contributions to specific candidates and committees and the PACs allow them to continue to donate in larger amounts. In others, vendors are restricted entirely from donating to a candidate or committee and the PACs allow them to funnel money to candidates and officials without running afoul of pay to play restrictions. The donations are all legal and the PACs are not covered by the state and local pay to play restrictions.
According to ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle, the drop in donations is in part the result of media focus from PolitickerNJ and other outlets that detailed the web of donations and the PACs’ ties to Middlesex County elected officials.
Among the donors still funneling money to the PACs in 2012 were Remington Vernick Engineers, which according to ELEC was the largest donor statewide among all vendors. Engineering firm T&M Associates, which was second to Remington Vernick in amount of donations, also continued giving to the PACs.
Accountant Hodulik and Morrison, which holds contracts throughout Middlesex County, also continued to contribute to the PACS in 2012.