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Report: With lack of 'riveting issue,' lobbying fell sharply in 2012

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Lobbying dropped off significantly in 2012, according to a new report from the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Spending on lobbying last year totaled $56.6 million, down 24 percent from 2011.

"The most important factor in driving down lobbying activity last year was the lack of any riveting issue," said Jeff Brindle, the commission's executive director, in a press release. "This factor, more than anything else, explains why lobbying activity goes up one year and down the next."

Brindle noted that a few firms have yet to submit their 2012 reports, but he said the drop-off from 2011 "will remain massive."

In fact, 2012 was the weakest year since 2008, when lobbying spending was $55.6 million.

The lion's share of the change came from the New Jersey Education Association, Brindle said, which dramatically cut its communication expenditures last year. In 2011, the union spent $10.8 million on communications. Last year, it spent $94,000.

The commission noted that 2010 and 2011 were marked by tense budget battles and major ad campaigns by the NJEA over proposed education laws. Last year, however, the union and Gov. Chris Christie worked together to hammer out a teacher tenure law, leading to the drop in NJEA spending.

That left AARP New Jersey as the top-spending lobbying group when it came to communications. It reported nearly $329,000 in communication expenditures.

Elsewhere, Public Service Enterprise Group was the top-spending special interest group last year, followed by the New Jersey Hospital Association.

The top multi-client lobbying firm was Princeton Public Affairs Group, followed by Public Strategies Impact and MBI Gluckshaw.

The state-level lobbying dropoff wasn't unique to New Jersey. ELEC noted that the Center for Responsive Politics recently found federal lobbying dropped 1.5 percent last year, to the lowest level since 2007.

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