Jon Corzine spent more than $130 million on his three campaigns. And where did it get him?
It will take some time to assess the costs and benefits of Jon Corzine's nine years as an elected official. But how much money his political career cost him is now known.
The former Wall Street executive spent $131 million of his own money on three runs for political office since 2000, including primaries, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal and state campaign finance data, including a report issued Tuesday by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
That's enough money to pay the entire property tax bill for a year for everyone in Corzine's hometown of Hoboken. It's nearly as much as the NHL paid last month to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and rescue the franchise from bankruptcy.
"After $130 million, what he got out of it was a term in the Senate, a term in the Statehouse and a portrait in the outer office,'' said Peter McDonough, an adjunct professor at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics and a former communications director for Republican former Gov. Christie Whitman.
Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center of Responsive Politics, says it's safe to say that Corzine has spent more of his own money to run for office than anyone in U.S. history other than Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor has spent about twice as much as Corzine in his three elections, all of them victorious.
Corzine is known for running overwhelming campaigns in a state where doing that requires lots of pricey airtime on New York and Philadelphia television stations.
The Democrat was pushed out of his job at the helm of Goldman Sachs in 1999 and used his fortune to help him burst onto the state's political scene. In 2000, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 2005, he was elected governor. And last month, after spending $27 million on a bitter campaign -- $25.3 million of it his own -- he lost to Republican Chris Christie, who spent $11.4 million.
Most of Christie's expenditures fell under a $10.9 million limit for candidates receiving public funding. Independent Chris Daggett, who also received public funding, spent $1.6 million.
Over the years, Corzine's political spending goes beyond what he spent on his campaigns.
He's spent $5.7 million on campaigns and other political causes inside New Jersey since 1999, the year he launched his Senate campaign. In that time, he's also spent about $2.9 million on federal campaigns and political action committees.
Add that to what he's spent on his own campaigns and his total political spending comes to $139.7 million over 11 years. And that doesn't include final numbers for how much he donated to campaigns other than his own this year, how much he bankrolled municipal candidates, or the charitable donations that his critics say were made to curry political favor. One example of those: Last year, Corzine gave $87,0000 to St. Matthew AME Church in Orange. This year, the pastor there, Reginald Jackson, who is also head of the important Black Ministers Council, endorsed Corzine.
While Corzine's total is staggering in terms of political spending, it's modest compared to the state's financial problems.
If instead of running for office and contributing to others in politics, he had given that much money to the state government, it would reduce the state's projected $8 billion budget gap for next year by less than 2 percent.
When he conceded the election last month, Corzine announced his retirement from elective office. But he has not said publicly what he'll do with his time or money.
If he stops or curtails his giving to New Jersey Democratic causes, the effects could be felt statewide, said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University.
"The Democrats will no longer have a go-to guy when it comes to funding campaigns that need funding,'' she said.