Contributions by public contractors jumped more than $2 million in 2013 to nearly $10.1 million, the biggest increase since 2007, according to an Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) analysis of annual disclosure reports filed last month.
In a year with the governor’s seat and all 120 legislative seats at stake, contributions shot up 27 percent.
“Since 2007, the only other year when there was a contribution spurt was 2011. The increase was tiny- 3 percent- compared to last year’s surge,’’ said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s Executive Director. “You must keep in mind, however, that overall contributions still are down 39 percent from a peak of $16.4 million in 2007.”
Brindle said that “the surge in contributions can be explained by the fact that for the first time since 2001, both houses of the Legislature and the governor were up for election. This means there were more state candidates running than any time in the last 13 years.”
For example, about a quarter of the $2 million increase went to gubernatorial fundraising committees.
“Another interesting fact attributable to the significance of last year’s election was that contractor contributions to political action committees (PACs) amounted to $1.6 million, an increase of 58 percent over the previous year,” Brindle said. “PACs are not subject to pay-to-play laws, making it very natural for contractor cash to be redirected toward them.”
He noted that ELEC, a bipartisan commission, in 2010 began advocating one state pay-to-play law, an end to a major loophole, more disclosure by contractors and an increase in the contribution limit from $300 to $1,000 for contractors that are subject to the law.
“Contractor contributions generally have been slumping since pay-to-play restrictions were first imposed eight years ago. Those restrictions imposed tight limits on most contractors, and some firms have just stopped making contributions altogether because the system is so confusing,’’ said Brindle. “Legislation reforms are necessary to create more balance.
“My guess is that in the future, the decline in contracting firm contributions directly to candidates and parties will continue, barring legislation overhauling the law,’’ he added.
Total reported contracts rose nearly $500 million in 2013 to $6.4 million. It was an eight percent increase and the second increase in a row.