The race to election day is heating up with candidates fundraising and spending their money on their campaigns. Election Law Enforcement Commission Executive Director Jeff Brindle told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor that Democratic legislative candidates are raising more money than their Republican counterparts, but the governor is raising more money than his Democratic challenger. He also said special interest groups will be the big story of this election year.
The Election Law Enforcement Commission released an analysis from the first quarter of 2013, which found approximately $22 million has been raised by legislative candidates this cycle. Brindle said Democratic legislative candidates raised about $15 million while Republicans raised about $7 million.
Brindle said there are a couple reasons why the Democratic candidates have an edge in fundraising. “One is the fact that the Democrats control the legislature and so therefore incumbents usually are able to raise more money,” he said. “But I think also the approval ratings of the governor at this point and the fact that there is a gubernatorial election as well has kind of revved up the Democrats in terms of raising money to try to prevent any kind of coattail effect.”
Republican controlled state committees are raising more money than Democratic controlled ones, but Brindle said that’s not unusual because oftentimes the fundraising comes more easily for committees controlled by the same party as the governor.
Fundraising for the six committees is at an all time low. Brindle said it has decreased primarily since 2006 with the enactment of the pay-to-play laws, which affect political parties at the state, county and municipal levels.
Special interest groups are expected to be a big part of the upcoming election. “We have predicted that there will be at least $25 million being spent in this gubernatorial legislative election by outside, independent groups,” Brindle said. “And this is a significant issue. This is an area in which the Election Law Enforcement Commission for the last three years has been calling for legislation to require these groups to disclose their activities. And we basically think that this may be the story of this campaign year, the involvement of independent groups.”
Gov. Chris Christie has significantly more money raised than challenger Barbara Buono. Brindle said he believes the public matching funds are very important, particularly this year.
“We run the public financing program and I think that in this particular year, the gubernatorial public financing is probably as important as it has ever been,” Brindle said. “It’s really a model program for the country, actually, and has been stated as such and I think with the emergence of these outside groups and so forth, public funding is probably more important than ever.”
Democrats are looking to enact campaign finance reform, a move Brindle sees as positive. “I’m very happy that there’s an interest in moving forward with campaign finance reform,” he said. “There’s been a couple of bills that have been introduced — one which deals solely with the independent groups, another one which is a more comprehensive bill which deals with pay-to-play. It deals with the independent groups and it deals with the real-time reporting of contributions.”
Brindle is unsure if reform will happen in the very near future. “Whether or not this legislation moves forward in this particular year, that’s really hard to say. At this time, we’re really getting into the middle of the campaign. So it’s kind of up in the air in terms of where that legislation is going,” he said. “But we are delighted that there is interest in doing something in this area.”