Independent spending on NJ Assembly races hits $8.4 million, highest ever

 New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission executive director Jeff Brindle says the independent committees are taking over the role of the traditional political parties. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission executive director Jeff Brindle says the independent committees are taking over the role of the traditional political parties. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Spending by special interest groups is making a big impact on Tuesday’s Assembly elections, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

 

Commission executive director Jeff Brindle said 42 percent of the $20 million — or about $8.4 million — spent on the Assembly races comes from the independent groups, the highest share ever for a statewide election.

“These groups are overtaking the traditional role of the political parties. Particularly in the districts where this independent money is being spent, candidates really don’t even have control of their campaigns anymore,” he said Thursday.

The spending increase by the independent committees follows a national trend and also stems from the state’s 2006 pay-to-play law that restricts campaign contributions by contractors, Brindle said.

“Now they’re really starting to catch on, and a lot of contractor money — as well as other money — is starting to go to these independent groups,” he said.

The special interest groups have concentrated that spending in just a few Assembly races.

“Most of the other districts are not competitive. The way that the redistricting went and usually always goes it favors one party or the other,” Brindle said. “Political pros look at the district map, and they determine where the closest races are going to be … and that’s where the spending is going to be.”

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