The Coalition for Progress, a super PAC linked to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, raised more than $400,000 in the first half of 2023, bringing its war chest to roughly $6.5 million. Fulop is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2025. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Liberty Science Center)
A super PAC helmed by allies of Steve Fulop, the Democratic mayor of Jersey City and 2025 gubernatorial hopeful, raised more than $400,000 in the first six months of 2023, adding to a war chest already millions-deep years out from the governor’s race.
The Coalition for Progress raised $414,921 in the first half of the year, bringing its reserves to just over $6.5 million, according to mid-year filings with the Federal Election Commission. The group — which has collected big donations from labor unions and various business executives, among others — has yet to begin spending to boost Fulop’s bid.
“Coalition for Progress is fully committed to supporting Democratic candidates who will invest in middle-class families, work to grow our economy and stand up for our shared values,” said Drew Nussbaum, the PAC’s treasurer. “We look forward to continuing our advocacy in upcoming elections and helping ensure that New Jersey has the strongest possible leaders representing our communities.”
Nussbaum has close ties to Fulop, whose wife, Jaclyn, is Nussbaum’s business partner.
As a super PAC, Coalition for Progress faces few limits on fundraising. Donations to super PACs are uncapped, and while the groups are barred by federal law from giving to or coordinating with candidates, super PACs can put any amount into independent expenditures supporting their campaigns.
With a war chest of $6.5 million, Coalition for Progress is already among the best-funded independent expenditure groups in state history, and its reserves are only expected to grow between now and the June 2025 gubernatorial primaries.
It’s unclear whether it will raise enough to eclipse the record set by New Direction New Jersey, a politically active nonprofit run by allies of Gov. Phil Murphy that raised and spent more than $13 million on 2021’s gubernatorial primary race.
Fulop’s own war chest has swelled since he launched his campaign in April. He had raised $2.2 million for his gubernatorial bid by the end of June, according to state campaign filings. His campaign has reported spending just $51,491 over that period, mostly on consultant, bank, and donation processing fees.
Coalition for Progress launched in 2015, when Fulop was considering a run for the 2017 Democratic nomination for governor. He is the only Democrat who has announced they intend to run to succeed Gov. Phil Murphy, who cannot seek a third term in 2025.
Slow start to spending
So far, the Fulop-linked group has spent little.
In May, it launched a single ad backing Craig Guy, the chief of staff to Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise who is now running to succeed DeGise. Guy easily won the Democratic nomination in June, all but assuring his general election victory in deeply Democratic Hudson County.
Coalition for Progress spent $103,319 on ad design and placement in late May and early June and paid an additional $10,000 on field consulting to boost Guy’s candidacy. The remaining $14,488 it spent in the first six months of 2023 went to miscellaneous expenses, including legal fees, fundraising expenses, and service charges for ActBlue, the online fundraising platform used by Democrats.
Despite the relatively slow start, Coalition for Progress has spent more of its fund this year than it has in any year since 2018, when it spent $231,235, mostly on consulting fees.
Large individual donations accounted for the biggest share of the PAC’s fundraising this year, bringing in $167,500.
The PAC received $46,500 from other political committees. Most were tied to labor unions, and ones linked to Sheet Metal Workers Local 25 ($25,000), IBEW Local 164 ($10,000), and the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters ($5,000) topped the list.
It also earned $138,321 in investment income.
Joseph Sai, a former senior executive at the cannabis firm Harvest Health & Recreation who is now a managing principal at Assurfund, a real estate fund focused on the marijuana industry, gave the PAC $50,000, the largest contribution it’s reported receiving this year.
David Steinberg, the CEO of international marketing firm Zeta Global, contributed $25,000. Others at Zeta, including the firm’s president and general counsel, gave a combined $7,000. Steinberg has a long record of political giving to Democratic candidates and causes.
The PAC received $10,000 from Gregory Tusar, a vice president at Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, and $5,000 from John Saraceno Jr., the cofounder of Onyx Equities.
Saraceno, who has donated to Gov. Phil Murphy, and Onyx have drawn scrutiny and Republican calls for a legislative probe over a recently signed lease with NJ Transit for office space at Onyx’s 2 Gateway Center in Newark. The agency chose the site despite it being the most expensive bid NJ Transit received.
Coalition for Progress got about $5,000 from David Samuel, a managing partner at CME Associates, an engineering firm that holds numerous public contracts with New Jersey municipalities and counties. The donation brings Samuel’s total giving to the super PAC to $30,000 since 2018.
The PAC reported receiving $62,600 in donations through ActBlue and $250 in contributions from donors who gave $300 or less.
The group’s total fundraising has slowed since last year, when it reported raising more than $1.7 million through the end of June.
Under recent changes to New Jersey campaign finance laws, independent expenditure groups that spend at least $7,500 to influence an election within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election are required to disclose to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission all spending and the identities of donors who gave at least $7,500.
A separate 2000 law requires candidates for governor who “formed, assisted in the formation of, or was involved in any way in the management of” to disclose all spending and fundraising made by super PACs and similar groups in the four years preceding the candidacy.
Those who don’t comply are ineligible for the state’s gubernatorial fund match program. It’s unclear if Coalition for Progress will be subject to disclosures under the 2000 law. Fulop announced his candidacy in April and has filed the necessary paperwork to seek the governorship.
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