Patrick Dunican of Gibbons.
Patrick Dunican of Gibbons. (Carmen Natale)

Revenues for the lobbying industry in Trenton shot back up last year after a brief slump, but law firms that lobby didn’t share in the rebound.

The top 10 law firms that lobby in New Jersey earned $10.39 million in 2013, essentially flat from $10.48 million the year before, according to figures released Thursday by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, the agency that regulates lobbying.

See chart, Top 10 N.J. Lawyer-Lobbyists, here.

Lobbying as a whole improved as a business with the industry earning nearly $54 million last year, an 11.1 percent hike over $48.6 million in 2012.

ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle says the uptick in spending on lobbyists may be traced to a number of controversial pieces of legislation that lawmakers considered last year.

Major issues last year included a proposal to put a minimum wage increase on the November ballot, a proposed new tax on hospitals, a push to enact online gaming, a bill requiring instant background checks for gun purchases and an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program to cover more uninsured residents, Brindle says.

The New Jersey Education Association, the union representing the bulk of public school teachers, came roaring back after a year off, spending $3.3 million in 2013. The union spent only a little more than $407,000 in 2012. Still, last year’s spending is a far cry from the $11.3 million it spent in 2011 and the $6.9 million spent in 2010.

There was some shake-up last year among the top 10 lawyer-lobbying concerns. While Gibbons of Newark retained the top, Morristown’s Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti dropped from second place to third, ousted by Trenton’s Optimus Partners, a lobbying firm headed by Philip Norcross, the managing partner of Parker McCay in Marlton.

Gibbons earned $1.98 million from lobbying in 2012, an increase of $200,000 from the previous year.

“It was a relatively flat year from the numbers I’ve seen,” says Gibbons’ managing partner, Patrick Dunican Jr. “It’s a tough way to make a living.” Signing clients, he says, “remains very competitive.”

Gibbons’ major clients were CSC Holdings of Bethpage, N.Y., a telecommunications company, which paid the firm $130,192 in fees; Atlantic City Electric, which paid the firm $121,110; and Virtua Health of Marlton, which paid the firm $120,000.

Optimus Partners had revenues of $1.5 million, an increase of about $200,000 from the previous year. Norcross’ brothers are state Sen. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, and George Norcross, the southern New Jersey Democratic power broker. Also on board is Jeffrey Michaels, former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Donald DiFrancesco.

Optimus Partners’ major clients were the Casino Association of New Jersey, which paid the firm $175,520 in fees; Comcast, which paid $144,000; and the Sayreville Seaport Association, a real estate developer based in Pennsylvania, that paid $123,750 in fees.

Riker, Danzig saw its revenues from lobbying dipped by nearly a quarter million dollars, to $1.3 million. Its biggest clients were FL Park Racing of Freehold, which paid the firm $112,440 in fees; Conrail, which paid $91,999; and CIGNA, which paid $87,500.

Rising from sixth to fourth place was West Orange’s Wolff & Samson. The firm has a lobbying subsidiary, Wolff & Samson Public Affairs, which earned $970,750. But the firm itself earned another $96,279, meaning that the combined entities raked in slightly less than $1.1 million.

The firm is headed by David Samson, the chairman of the embattled Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who also is a former Republican Attorney General. He is a close ally of Gov. Chris Christie, but has come under fire for dealings between his firm and the port authority.

The combined entities’ major clients were Honeywell Intellectual Properties of Morristown, which paid $240,000 in fees; Barnabas Health of West Orange, which paid $195,000 in fees; and GTech Corp. of Providence, R.I., a gaming company that paid $180,000.

Coming in fifth, and dropping a spot, was Trenton’s Impact NJ, headed by former Democratic Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy Jr. and former Republican Assemblyman Guy Gregg. The firm’s revenues also dropped about a quarter million dollars to slightly more than $1 million last year. The firm earned more than $1.2 million the year before.

Its biggest clients were Walgreen Co., the Illinois-based drug store chain, which paid the firm $117,000 in fees; Liberty Health System in Jersey City, which paid $110,000; and RTC Properties, a Kearny-based developer that paid $97,200 in fees.

Maintaining its holds on the sixth spot was Porzio Governmental Affairs, the Trenton affiliate of Morristown’s Porzio, Bromberg & Newman. The firm had revenues of $998,186 last year, up about $6,000 from the prior year.

PGA’s major clients were the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, which paid the firm $74,800 in fees; MasterCard International, which paid $65,943; and CNA Financial of Latham, N.Y., which paid the firm $60,448.

Finishing seventh was the combination of Richard Mroz Public Affairs, Archer & Greiner and Archer Public Affairs. They all became one entity – Archer & Greiner Public Affairs – in October. The three units earned a combined $890,251 last year. Mroz was Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s chief counsel, and the firm also hired Democrat William Caruso, who was the executive director of the Assembly Majority Office.

The firm’s biggest clients were Trump Entertainment Resorts of Atlantic City, which paid the firm $110,000 in fees; EnerNOC, a Boston energy efficiency company, which paid $60,000 in fees; and Hess Corp. of Woodbridge, which also paid $60,000 n fees.

Coming in eighth and dropping a spot was Princeton’s Issues Management, a subsidiary of Roseland’s Lowenstein Sandler. The firm earned $577,691 last year compared to $684,618 in 2012. Its major clients were D’Imperio Performing Parties Group of Lawrenceville, which paid $92,334 in fees; Touro College of New York, which paid $91,518 in fees; and JIS Performing Parties Group, which paid $68,767 in fees.

In ninth position, and moving up a spot, was Phillipsburg’s Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, headed by former Gov. James Florio. The firm earned $545,842 last year, down about $80,000 from 2012. Its major clients were United Water, which paid $165,0000 in fees; Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, which paid $84,149; and PepsiCo of Purchase, N.Y., which paid $75,513.

Rounding out the top 10 was Pittsburgh’s Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, which merged with Trenton’s Sterns & Weinroth last March. The combined firms earned $543,265 in fees last year. Its major clients were Citigroup Management Corp., which paid $72,269 in fees; the American Insurance Association, which paid 71,874; and CSX Corp., which paid $55,116.