N.J. lobbyists spent $93.7M to influence top politicians last year, third-highest total ever – NJ.com

New Jersey statehouse dome in Trenton. ThinkstockThinkstock
New Jersey lobbyists spent a whopping $93.7 million to influence lawmakers and the governor’s office, which failed to break the state’s all-time record in 2020 but enough to make it the third-highest spending ever.
Though short of the $106.8 million shelled out in 2020, spending remained high last year in part because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, said Jeff Brindle, the executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
“Even in the down years, the business of lobbying remains a major enterprise in the Garden State,” Brindle said in a statement.
Lobbyists are required to register with the state and regularly report spending related to their work of trying to sway individual legislators on bills and push the administration on rules and regulations.
The torrent of bills and regulations prompted by the coronavirus pandemic continued into 2021 after the state recorded its first known case and all but shut down in March 2020. The ongoing crisis helped fuel lobbying.
The three top spenders last year was PSE&G, which totals nearly $2.6 million; Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, $1.9 million, and the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey, which spent $1.4 million.
Spending by the fuel merchants was up 980% compared to 2020 and has never ranked in the top 10, according to ELEC. The group represents heating oil merchants and opposes Gov. Phil Murphy’s Energy Master Plan that wants New Jersey to be on a path toward 100% clean energy by 2050.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is the state’s second-largest health insurer. The pandemic had an enormous effect on the health care industry and the insurer, through a separate entity called Move Health Care Forward NJ Inc., funded a campaign to successfully push for restructuring legislation, ELEC noted.
In late 2020, Murphy signed a bill into law that allowed it to transition from a not-for-profit organization to a not-for-profit mutual holding company.
The other seven special interest lobbyists that made up the top 10 were the Engineers Labor Employer Cooperative, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, Chemistry Council of NJ (which includes State Street Associates), the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, Comcast Corporation, New Jersey Realtors, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Top Ten Special Interest Lobbying Spenders in 2021.
According to ELEC, of the nearly $66.2 million in reported receipts by 82 registered lobbyists that reported their figures to the commission, $42.3 million — or nearly 64 percent — went to the top ten multi-client firms. They big lobbying firms were:
And while spending money to influence lawmakers and governors has ballooned in recent years — there has been one aspect of lobbying that hit a record low last year: benefit passing.
It’s the amount lobbyists spend on wining and dining: gifts, lmeals, trips, or other things of value.
The figure dropped to $1,367 last year, which was the smallest sum since the all-time high of $163,375 in 1992, according to ELEC. It was a big issue until reforms curtailed the practice.
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Matt Arco may be reached at marco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MatthewArco.
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