The top 10 law firms that lobby the state government in Trenton saw a year-over-year revenue increase in 2017, according statistics from state elections regulators.
For 2017, the 10 highest-earning lawyer-lobbyists pulled in $12.18 million, up from $11.36 million in 2016, a 7.2 percent increase, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, which regulates lobbying, campaign fundraising and spending.
It’s important to note that which lawyer-lobbyist firms make the top 10 varies from year to year based on earnings, so the comparison is not among the same group of firms.
Overall, revenues for the thousands of registered lobbyists who work the Statehouse dropped slightly, to $57.32 million from $57.64 million in 2016, ELEC reported.
Nevertheless, ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said lobbying in Trenton remains a healthy industry.
“In a democratic society, policy-making often doesn’t come easy or quietly,” Brindle said in a statement.
The two biggest spenders overall were Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Public Service Enterprise Group, which spent $2.52 million and $2.35 million, respectively, on lobbying efforts, ELEC said.
Horizon successfully fought Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt to seize $300 million of the insurer’s surplus to fund programs fighting opioid addiction. PSEG is still attempting to persuade lawmakers to approve a plan to levy millions of surcharges on ratepayers, purportedly to prop up its aging nuclear power plants in Salem County.
As has been the case historically, the revenues for the top 10 law firms that lobby, or have lawyers on their staffs, were dwarfed by the two biggest players: Princeton Public Affairs Group and Public Strategies Impact, both of Trenton, which saw 2017 revenues of $9.23 million and $6.16 million, respectively.
Among the law firms that lobby, Newark-based Gibbons, which bases its lobbying arm in Trenton, again led the pack with $2.11 million in 2017 revenue, a slight drop from 2016 revenue of $2.32 million.
Gibbons’ lobbying arm is led by David Pascrell (son of Democratic U.S. Rep. William Pascrell), co-chairman Kevin Walsh and Paul St. Onge (son-in-law of former Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley).
Despite the slight drop-off in revenues, Pascrell said he was pleased with the year.
“It was an extraordinary year, especially since we were working with a full complement,” Pascrell said. “We continue to grow.
“After 20 years of doing this, it looks like we finally arrived,” he said.
Gibbons’ most lucrative clients were Atlantic City Electric, which paid the firm $225,000 in fees; CSC Holdings, owner of Cablevision, which paid $166,500; and Rowan University, which paid the firm $132,701, according to ELEC records.
Again coming in second was Trenton-based Optimus Partners, which had $2.05 million in revenue last year.
Optimus is headed by Philip Norcross, managing partner at Marlton’s Parker & McCay and brother to U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, and George Norcross, the southern New Jersey Democratic power broker. Optimus also is led by Jeffrey Michaels, the former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Donald DiFrancesco.
Its major clients were the Casino Association of New Jersey, which paid $175,000; Holt Logistics Corp., operator of port facilities in Gloucester City, which paid $147,000 in fees; and New Jersey American Water Co., which paid $126,000.
Coming in third is Trenton’s Archer Public Affairs and its parent law firm, Archer & Greiner of Haddonfield, with combined revenue of $1.56 million. The combined firms finished in third place the previous year. The firms had three clients—CareCentrix of Hartford, Computer Square Inc. of Keasbey, and Inspira Health Network of Mullica Hill—who each paid $90,000 in fees. Another major client was the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey, which paid $72,984.
Fourth is Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti, which is based in Morristown but maintains an office in Trenton. It saw $1.42 million in revenue last year.
Finishing in fifth was a newcomer to the list, Trenton’s Komjathy & Kean, with $1.34 million in revenue. The firm is headed by Aladar Komjathy, a career public servant and lobbyist, and Eileen Kean, a lawyer who joined the firm in 2010. She is the sister of Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Monmouth.
“The two of us, we’ve been lucky,” said Komjathy, who added that while he is a Democrat and Kean a Republican, the pair does not present themselves as politically affiliated. “We don’t wear our affiliations on our sleeves,” he said.
Komjathy & Kean’s best-paying clients were RAI Services of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which paid $114,747 in fees; Comcast, which paid $106,315; and beer brewer Anheuser-Busch, which paid $96,000.
Coming in sixth was Porzio Governmental Affairs of Trenton, the lobbying subsidiary of Morristown law firm Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, which had revenues last year of $1.1 million. Its top clients were MasterCard, which paid $84,125 in fees; Greenwood Racing Inc. of Bensalem, which paid $85,214; and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, which paid $65,027.
Porzio finished fifth last year.
Finishing seventh, for the second year in a row, was River Crossing Strategy Group, with revenue of $845,000. The Trenton firm is headed by Eric Shuffler, who was counselor to former Democratic Govs. James McGreevey and Richard Codey. He also was chief of staff to Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli.
River Crossing’s big clients were Asbury Partners, a development company, which paid $90,000 in fees; Better Education for Kids, an educational advocacy group, which also paid $90,000; and the Morristown Municipal Airport, which paid $72,000.
In the eighth spot is West Orange’s Chiesa, Shahinian & Giantomasi, headed by former New Jersey Attorney General—and, briefly, Republican U.S. Sen.—Jeffrey Chiesa. It had revenue of $765,187. The firm previously was known as Wolff & Samson, which was led by David Samson, another former state attorney general and the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The firm’s major clients were Health Management Systems of Hamilton, which paid $206,581 in fees; PSEG, which paid $77,428; and Combined Power Production and Gas and Electric Utility, which paid $77,428.
The firm dropped two spots from the year before.
Rochelle Park’s Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader finished in ninth place, moving up one spot, with revenues of $521,068. It is headed by former Democratic Gov. James Florio. The firm’s top lobbyist had been former McGreevey counsel Paul Fader, who died last last year shortly after leaving the firm.
Florio Perrucci’s top 2017 clients were Suez Water Co. of Harrington Park, which paid $120,000 in fees; Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which paid $91,212; and PepsiCo, which paid $75,000.
Rounding out the top 10 was Impact NJ, which saw revenues of $470,000. The firm is led by former Democratic Morris County prosecutor and one-time gubernatorial candidate Michael Murphy, and former Republican U.S. Rep. Guy Gregg.
Its biggest client was a marijuana dispensary, Comprehensive Care Centers of American in Woodbridge, which paid $95,000 in fees. Other clients were River Terminal Development Co. of Kearny, which paid $90,000; and National Strategies of Washington, D.C., another lobbying firm, which paid $66,000 in fees.