There’s less money in NJ politics — but that’s not necessarily good
New Jersey’s political parties continue to scuffle financially.
The big Democratic and Republican campaign committees, including the state parties and legislative leadership PACs, entered the summer with nearly 30 percent less cash on hand than at the same point before the gubernatorial and legislative elections four years ago.
And the 2013 pace was 13 percent less than four years before that.
People who can’t stand politics might say that’s good, but state Election Law Enforcement Commission director Jeff Brindle thinks even people who don’t like the system would miss the parties if they wither. He says the political money is still flowing, only it goes to less accountable independent groups.
“There’s not, certainly not, less money in politics. It’s just a question of where the money is going,” Brindle said.
The so-called “Big Six” committees had a combined $2.26 million in cash on hand as of June 30, compared with $3.19 million at the same point of 2013 and $3.68 million in 2009, the last years with gubernatorial elections in the state.
The big Republican committees had more cash on hand than the Democratic ones, nearly $1.4 million compared with $906,000. The Democrats are raising more money, but they’re also spending more.
Fundraising by state and county parties has declined since a pay-to-play law restricting political donations from government contractors was passed in 2006. That’s been combined with a rise in spending through independent groups fueled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
And that’s a problem, Brindle said.
“The political parties, first of all, represent a broad coalition of people, as opposed to the special interests, which are concerned with a single issue,” Brindle said. “They also historically have been a link from the people to their government. And they’re much more accountable. They’re regulated by law and disclose their activities. People are very much aware of what’s going on.”
“In so many ways, political parties are integral and essential to the electoral and political processes, in the state and in America generally,” he said.
Independent groups don’t face the same requirements for disclosing their fundraising and don’t have contribution limits.
ELEC recommends that the pay-to-play law be revamped to exclude donations to the political parties but include other PACs, as well as higher limits on donations to the political parties.