The so-called “Big Six” state party and legislative committees were “out-gunned” by special interests in 2017, according to New Jersey’s campaign finance watchdog.
Spending from the state Democratic and Republican parties and four legislative leadership committees totaled $13.3 million last year, a figure dwarfed by the roughly $45.4 million poured into races by independent groups, according to an analysis from the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
The spending sum from super PACs and other special interests is more than three times the total from the “Big Six” committees, which include the two major state party committees, Senate Republican Majority, Assembly Republican Victory, Senate Democratic Majority and the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. By contrast, those committees spent 142 times more than independent groups in 2007, according to the ELEC.
When the 2009 cycle is adjusted for inflation, the $13.3 million total spent by the “Big Six” committees in 2017 is the lowest sum spent in the last decade except for 2015, when only the Assembly was up for reelection. The governor’s office and all 120 legislative seats were on the ballot last year.
“Party committees are now regularly out-gunned by independent groups during New Jersey’s statewide elections,” ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said in a statement. “Traditional committees used by the two major parties to raise funds for New Jersey elections seem to be in relentless decline. Legislative reforms are needed to try to reverse this trend and create a more balanced electoral landscape.”
Unlike party committees, super PACs and other independent groups face no contribution limits and don’t have to disclose their donors. To make donating to the more transparent party committees more appealing, Brindle recommends that state lawmakers increase the contribution limit that parties can accept, exempt parties from pay-to-play restrictions and require independent committees to fully disclose their campaign finance activities.
“We are hoping the new administration will seriously consider these changes, and we will continue to work with both parties to bring about these needed reforms,” Brindle said.
The Democratic committees combined to raise $8.5 million and spend $8.8 million in 2017, according to the ELEC. Republicans raised $3.7 million and spent $4.5 million.