Independent expenditure groups have shattered spending records in New Jersey’s gubernatorial and legislative races by 50 percent, according to the latest tally from the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Republican Chris Christie, a popular incumbent poised to become the first New Jersey governor to win a second term since the 1990s, has dominated opponent Barbara Buono in both the cash race and opinion polls in a contest that has garnered national attention. All 120 seats in the Legislature are also up for reelection.
“Even with the election still weeks away, independent spending in state campaigns already has hit an all-time high of $21 million not including ballot questions,’’ Jeff Brindle, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement today announcing the figures. “That compares to the previous high of $14.1 million spent in 2009 mostly on the gubernatorial election.”
In May, he predicted such groups would spend a combined $30 million this year influencing races.
Christie to date has raised almost $13 million in the race, compared with the $2.2 million Buono has collected. As of the most recent disclosures, the governor had $8 million in cash on hand to spend in the final weeks of the campaign, compared with $1.2 million for the Democrat.
In addition to supporting or opposing candidates, outside groups have spent $1.6 million on statewide ballot questions, primarily to oppose or support a measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage, according to Brindle. The biggest spender was the pro-Christie Committee for Our Children’s Future, which has so far spent $7.8 million in the governor’s race, according to finance regulators.
New Jersey law doesn’t require independent spending groups to disclose their contributions and in some cases expenses, making it impossible to say how much money is being spent. Brindle’s agency has asked lawmakers to require full disclosure.