Political Spending and Influence - Sunlight Policy Center

Political Spending and Influence

In politics, money is power.  The NJEA automatically takes in over $120 million in property tax dollars and teachers dues every year.  According to the state’s elections watchdog, the NJEA is by far the leader in reported political spending, but due to reporting loopholes and clever disguise, what is reported is only a fraction of what the NJEA really spends.  The SPCNJ estimates that the modern NJEA – with its Executive Office dominated by political operatives – spends about $65 million a year on politics at the state and local level.  This makes the NJEA the dominant political force in the state – as it has been for decades.  Over the years, the NJEA’s unmatched political clout has allowed it to rig the political system for its benefit and fight attempts at reform, all to the detriment of New Jersey citizens.

Political Spending

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Research Reports


The Decline Implies Teachers Want Less Political Spending

The NJEA is New Jersey’s biggest special-interest political spender, but in 2023, its political spending declined to $3.45 million, down -57% from the 2017 peak and -28% from 2021. Over 99% went to Democrats.

Spending by the NJEA’s traditional PAC, NJEA PAC, continued its downward trajectory and was the lowest in over a decade.  NJEA PAC is funded by a separate stream of dues that teachers must opt into, so the steady decline shows that when given a choice, teachers choose not to spend their money on politics.

Teachers don’t have a choice when it comes to funding the NJEA’s Super PAC, Garden State Forward, where spending also declined substantially. Garden State Forward reflects NJEA leadership’s discretionary spending, and the significant decline suggests a scenario: teachers are leaving the NJEA, dues revenues are declining, and leadership has been forced to focus on member retention rather than playing politics.

Both would imply that teachers want less political spending.

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It sure looks like the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is funding another dark money Super PAC, this time aimed squarely at parents running for their local school boards this fall.

So, parents, beware!  The NJEA is coming after you with TV ads, opposition research, union-friendly candidates trained and supported by the NJEA, and now with piles of dark money.

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Lame-Duck Lawmakers Sneak One Past the New Jersey Public

Follow the money! Follow what happens behind closed doors in Trenton! Sunlight Policy Center of New Jersey shines a light on our 2022 lame suck session.

Sunlight Policy Center JUST found an eleventh-hour, backroom deal that occurred right before Governor Murphy was sworn in to a second term gives New Jersey politics a bad name.

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Before you go, Governor Murphy … There is Some Unfinished Business in the Garden State

It sure looks like New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wants to run for president. Politico recently ran an article about Murphy’s national political ambitions, reporting that Murphy’s wife and a top political aide were launching two Super PACs, which are ideal vehicles for a national campaign because they can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. Murphy did much the same thing in his gubernatorial campaigns, starting a non-profit called New Start New Jersey before his initial run in 2017 and then having his campaign manager run the Super PAC New Direction New Jersey to pave the way for his re-election in 2021.

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Follow The Money: What The NJEA Really Spends On Politics

According to New Jersey’s elections watchdog, the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), when it comes to political spending that is officially reported to ELEC, the NJEA is by far the dominant player at both the state and local levels. As will be shown later in this report, the NJEA’s reported political spending is dwarfed by the amount of its actual political spending, most of which is covert and unreported.

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Money Equals Power: How The NJEA Dominates New Jersey Politics

“The powerhouse” of New Jersey politics – that’s how the NJEA describes itself. And the facts back them up.

For more than 50 years, the NJEA has dominated New Jersey politics.

In fact, the modern era of New Jersey politics has been one continuous saga of the NJEA wielding extraordinary influence to serve its own interests. It has constructed a system that automatically and annually generates tens of millions of taxpayer dollars— presently $129 million—funneled directly into its coffers. It spends far more of these tax dollars on political action than is reported or generally known. The SPCNJ estimates that the NJEA spends about $65 million a year on political action at the state and local levels, which dwarfs all other political spenders.

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