N.J. Lobbyist Spending Hits New High at $73M; Teachers Union Tops List Again

March 7, 2012

 Once again, the state’s largest teachers union tops New Jersey groups when it comes to spending on lobbying.

The New Jersey Education Association spent $11.3 million on lobbying last year, $10.8 million of which was on advertisements, according to an analysis released this morning by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). It’s the most a single group has ever spent, topping its previous record from last year, when it spent $6.9 million.

The next highest spending on lobbying was by Verizon, which spent $1.2 million and for much of the last year unsuccessfully tried to have a bill enacted to deregulate the telephone and cable industries. The AFL-CIO came in third, spending just shy of $800,000 while they and the NJEA fought against the overhaul of public sector benefits.

Overall, spending on lobbying reached a record $73 million last year – up from the previous record of $66 million in 2010.

“The 21st Century certainly has arrived for lobbyists in New Jersey,’’ said ELEC Executive Director Jeffrey Brindle. “Lobbyists are depending more and more on mass media communications in their effort to influence public policy.”

While spending on lobbying has soared – particularly on television, internet and print advertisements – the old practice of “benefit passing” in which lobbyists purchase food and other benefits for public officials continues to decline. In 2011, lobbyists spent just $5,687 on benefit passing, down from $7,476 in 2010. The practice peaked in 1992, when lobbyists spent $163,375 to wine and dine public officials.

“Benefit passing really is a thing of the past due to the gift ban imposed in 2003 and the increasing public scrutiny given to lobbyists paying to entertain public officials,’’ said Brindle.