The Candidate's Coffers: Murphy’s in the Money, Guadagno’s Struggling

With three-and-a-half weeks left until election day, Murphy is getting close to maxing out his fundraising, while Guadagno continues to have trouble raising funds.

Fundraising has always been important to candidates running statewide in New Jersey, because they have to advertise in the expensive New York and Philadelphia markets.

“It’s really hard to get yourself known in New Jersey and money is the answer,” said Ben Dworkin, director of The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “If you do not have enough, you face a serious uphill battle in getting your message out. This is another wind she has to face at this point in the race.” Guadagno spokesman Ricky Diaz brushed off the campaign’s fundraising deficit.

“We’re very confident,” he said. “If money won races, Hillary Clinton would be president.”

Independent committees

Additionally, two independent committees supporting Murphy — New Start NJ (a committee created by Murphy in advance of his run) and the Committee to Build the Economy — have raised a combined $1.1 million and spent about $200,000 toward the general election, according to ELEC. New Start’s report was not available online on Thursday, but the Committee to Build the Economy’s report showed that the group’s funds had come half from unions. Garden State Forward, funded by the New Jersey Education Association, had given $500,000, while the committee of the Laborers Eastern Region and Unite Here TIP State and Local, whose New Jersey local represents casino hotel workers, gave $250,000 apiece. Most of CBE’s money was spent on research, planning, and management consultants, the report shows.

The totals reported by ELEC do not include what could be significant spending by the governors associations of both parties, which are running attack ads. There is currently no public repository of the spending by these organizations.

“Both groups have taken advantage of outdated state legislation that lets independent groups avoid disclosing their contributions and spending if they indirectly attack candidates by tying them to unpopular issues instead of directly urging voters to support or defeat candidates,” said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle. “Both parties in New Jersey have introduced legislation that would close this loophole. But voters will have to wait at least until the next statewide election before they benefit from such a reform. With independent spending becoming a dominant force in national, state, and even local races, disclosure by independent groups is more urgent than ever.”

The Republican Governors Association has so far funded three ads, two criticizing Murphy for his plan to raise taxes — which a Murphy spokesman has said will total $1.3 billion on millionaires, hedge fund managers, large corporations, and legalized marijuana — and the third for his proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

And Our New Jersey, affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, has paid for ads tying Guadagno to the unpopular Gov. Chris Christie, with whom she has served since he first took office nearly eight years ago.

More than 1,500 individuals, businesses, and committees have given to Murphy so far, according to his general election filing, with 372 of those contributing the maximum $4,300. More than 80 percent of his contributors were individuals. For those specifying an occupation, attorneys were the most common, making up close to 6 percent of donors, although there was a slightly higher percentage of those who indicated they were retired.

Murphy’s greatest spending has been on media, including on Internet advertising, eating up more than half of his expenditures. His largest payments -- $1.6 million -- have gone to 4CM&M, which has an office in New Brunswick and whose principals include two men well-known in New Jersey Democratic campaign circles, Steve DeMicco and Brad Lawrence.

Guadagno’s report lists 540 general election contributors, 153 of whom gave the maximum amount. Like Murphy, more than eight in 10 donors to her campaign are individuals. Management, administrative and executive employees comprise her largest group of donors — more than 20 percent of all. The largest chunk of her spending for the general election has been on cable TV advertising, for a total of nearly $1 million, or 42 percent of the total. Her main media consultant is Jamestown Associates, headed by Larry Weitzner, who is no stranger in New Jersey, having worked with Christie and congressional representatives past and present. Weitzner was also the lead ad maker for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Two of the five independent candidates for governor also filed reports. The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, representing the Green Party, reported raising almost $90,000 and currently shows a deficit of about $1,500. Gina Genovese, running under the slogan “Reduce Property Taxes,” had $6,725 cash on hand after spending some $43,000.

In total, all the candidates have raised about $13.4 million, with known independent committee money bringing that to $14.5 million. Total spending by candidates and committees equaled $7.2 million.

This is just a fraction of the amounts raised and spent during the primary and in the period before that. Including independent spending, there were 11 candidates, but the larger number was primarily not the reason why the total spent topped $43 million. Murphy largely self-financed his primary run and did not limit his spending or accept public financing, as he did in the general election. His own campaign and two committees backing him spent close to $28 million

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