It's a new year and New Jersey Republicans are seeing green.
The state Republican Party said it had raised nearly $1 million during the first quarter of the year — nearly eight times what the party has raised on average during the same period in the last decade.
GOP party chair Samuel Raia said the party raised $941,000 in the first quarter of 2011. By comparison, during the first quarter of 2007 — the last time the entire Legislature was up for election, as it is this year — Republicans raised $24,600 to Democrats' $214,300.
Democrats dominated the fundraising game for years, but that began to change with the election of Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2009.
"The outpouring of support for Gov. Christie's Republican Party is directly related to the governor's bold reform plans and strong leadership," Raia said. "The financial backing will allow the NJGOP to aggressively compete in races across New Jersey as we fight to elect more Republicans in November."
Earlier this month Christie held a fundraiser with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in New York City at the Soho Grand Hotel. Tickets for cocktail hour ran $1,000 and jumped to $25,000 per person for dinner.
Fundraising in recent years has been seriously curtailed as a result of pay-to-play laws that ban people from donating to political parties if they do a certain amount of business with the state. The laws — hailed as among the toughest in the nation when introduced in 2005 — prohibit state agencies from awarding contracts worth more than $17,500 to companies that donate more than $300 to gubernatorial candidates or to county or state political parties. The result has been a steady decline in fundraising totals.
While Democrats raised $28 million in 2001, that was down to $1.6 million last year. The most Republicans raised was $5.6 million in 1997, shrinking to $1.8 million last year.
Both parties were required to file their first-quarter campaign finance reports Friday to the State Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Democrats did not furnish a copy of their report or detail contributions. Republicans only gave total fundraising amount and also did not furnish the complete finance report.