money-full-columnMiddletown-based civil engineering firm T&M Associates was the state’s biggest contributor to political campaigns among businesses that contract with local and state government in New Jersey, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The state Election Law Enforcement Commission reported that for the fifth straight year, T&M — which holds contracts with both Middletown and Red Bank — topped the list of donor/contractor firms disclosing contributions under so-called ‘pay-to-play’ laws.

From the Asbury Park Press:

The biggest donor, as it has been in all five years the reports have been compiled, was the Middletown-based engineering firm T&M Associates. It made 184 political contributions totaling $435,110 last year, and was paid $30.3 million from government contracts, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier.

Company spokesman Tom Wilson said the firm doesn’t feel pressure from politicians to make campaign donations, and receives contracts after going through competitive processes that show it’s often the best candidate for the work.

“The reality is it’s one of, if not the, largest professional engineering firms in the state,” Wilson said. “They do work all over the state. They have lots of folks who solicit them for support, charitable, political and otherwise. I don’t think it should be terribly surprising their being at the top of the list.”

T&M Associates did work last year for 17 of the state’s 21 counties or their authorities, including contracts totaling more than $1 million each from Gloucester, Middlesex and Monmouth. It also held local contracts in more than 100 municipalities, including nearly $1.4 million in Union Township in Union County, and $1 million each in Middletown and Red Bank.

From the Star-Ledger:

Companies with state and local government contracts gave $9.4 million to political parties and candidates in 2010, down from their peak of $16.4 million in 2007, according to a report released Wednesday by the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Five years ago, firms that made political donations had government contracts worth $10.4 billion. Last year, that was down to $5.8 billion, according to the the report.

The reasons: a lagging economy, cuts in state aid to local governments, few state-level races and restrictions on pay-to-play, the practice of making political contributions to improve the chance at a public contract.

Election Law Enforcement Commission Executive Director Jeffrey Brindle said the report shows the laws are having an effect.

“I think the goals of the pay-to-play laws have been to eliminate even the appearance of undue influence, and at the same time to reduce the amount of contributions being made by contractors,’ he said.

The report is not necessarily a full picture, since businesses are only required to report their full political contribution and contract information to the state if they made more than $50,000 from government agencies.

Brindle suspects some politicians and contractors are skirting the laws by channeling the money through political action committees. His agency has been pressing state government to close loopholes in the law.

Here’s the top 10 donor list from ELEC (click to enlarge):


Here’s the full ELEC news release: elec-release-040611