$38 million from outside groups pours into N.J. election

Spending by independent special-interest groups on Tuesday’s election in New Jersey has reached an all-time high.New data from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission show that independent groups have spent nearly $38 million to influence the gubernatorial and legislative races as well as two ballot questions.

It’s a whole new world in New Jersey politics, with those special interest groups spending six times as much as the state’s political parties, said Jeff Brindle, ELEC executive director.

“It should be of concern to people when you have political parties — which are much more accountable, much more regulated under state law, much more transparent, have played an essential role throughout our history — basically emasculated by these independent groups,” Brindle said.

Most of the independent spending is focusing on a few competitive legislative districts.

But Rider University political science professor Ben Dworkin said that won’t be enough to help Republicans take control of either the Senate or Assembly.

“There’s pro-Democratic outside money coming in. There’s pro-Republican outside money coming in. They’ll probably cancel each other out,” Dworkin said Thursday. “The bigger issue that will help determine control of the Legislature is really the governor’s coattails. Will he have them?”

Gov. Chris Christie has been making a push for Republican legislative candidates in those competitive districts in the final days of the campaign.

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