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Picking Their Fights, Lobbyists See Spending Soar

NJEA spends $11 million in battle with Christie to top list.

It’s a whopping sum, more than $11 million spent by the New Jersey Education Association last year in its lobbying and communications efforts -- mostly public battles with Gov. Chris Christie.

The vast majority of the money was spent on television and other advertising. It dwarfed the next highest sum broken down by New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission yesterday. That was the $1.2 million spent by Verizon NJ.

NJEA’s spending was a record amount, almost a sixth of all the money that went to lobbying last year. And it was one that both Christie and the union itself seized upon -- albeit with different intentions.

“I feel badly for teachers who are paying dues every year to have that garbage put on the airwaves,” Christie said yesterday. “Is this what they want it spent on?”

Christie once again called for the union’s leadership to be replaced, calling NJEA president Barbara Keshishian and executive director Vince Giordano “abject failures in representing teachers in this state.”

The union said it was money well spent, mostly for its “Millionaires for Christie” campaign last spring that involved TV and radio ads, billboards, and even planes pulling banners along the Jersey Shore.

“This is not something we normally do -- not something we budget -- but our members rose up and said we must fight back,” said Steve Wollmer, the NJEA’s communications director.

“He’s wrecking public education,” Wollmer said of the governor. “That will be his lasting legacy unless he is countered.”

The NJEA's spending wasn’t the only newsworthy finding in the annual report by the New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission (ELEC). The report lists the top special interest groups and also the lobbying firms that are contracted to represent these groups and others.

Princeton Public Affairs Group Inc., a Trenton-based firm that boasts being the largest state-lobbying firm in the country, collected more than $8.4 million in receipts.

Continue reading this story in NJ Spotlight.

NJ Spotlight is an online news service providing insight and information on issues critical to New Jersey.

Dan March 11, 2012 at 03:58 PM
If I were a teacher, I'd be pissed at my union "leadership". What has that $11 million accomplished?
Joe R March 11, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Teachers are pissed at the all out war that Christie has declared not only against the NJEA but against teachers (Christie has indeed made anti-teacher remarks right in front of some students) and our public schools. Teachers are angry that Christie is slashing education and destroying a very successful school system. Have you noticed how Christie has only gone after the NJEA and not the police or fire fighter unions, and this is from day one. The NJEA would not have to spend so much money if they could get equal time, equal to Christie's time on the media (Fox News, NJ 101.5, hate wing radio).
Joe R March 11, 2012 at 06:15 PM
continued: The NJEA would not have to spend money if Christie would stop his constant attacks and smears against the NJEA. Christie gets free time ranting, raving and smearing the NJEA almost every day all year. The only way the NJEA can get its message out is by paying for time and airing ads to counter all of Christie's bloviating and the media bias against unions. The teachers do want their union to fight back against all the lies and disinformation of Christie who has the free bully pulpit. Their money is private money, it does not belong to Chris Christie. Christie is a vicious bully, he's mad because the NJEA and teachers are not lying down and taking all of his garbage. Gee, an anti-union GOP governator, what a shock.
Joe R March 11, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Christie was a registered state lobbyist himself from 1999 to 2001 but he seems to want to limit the free speech rights of the NJEA. Christie gets tons and tons of free media access while the NJEA has to pay to be heard. The Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, Christie seems to have a problem with that when it comes to the NJEA.
Joe R March 11, 2012 at 08:28 PM
But his buddies, the Koch brothers, can lavish all kinds of money on him and on anti-union organizations which spread anti-union propaganda all over the media practically 24/7, that's no problem for Christie. Christie is trying to muzzle the NJEA and trying to bully them into silence. Christie obviously has a problem with free speech. The teachers want the union to fight back and to fight for their rights.

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