NEW JERSEY 101.5

Cynics who believe politics is all about money, may have some proof to support their claims.

Andrew Burton, Getty Images

According to The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), spending by outside special interest groups has reached an all-time high, smashing the previous record.

"It's an incredible amount of money that's being spent by independent groups," said Jeff Brindle, executive director of ELEC. "We're talking a total of about $38 million. In 2009 there was a total of about $14.1 million so we're over two times more."

So-called "outside" spending, which by law cannot be coordinated with candidates or parties, comprises almost 35 percent of all election spending this year, compared to 16 percent in 2009.

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"Independent special interest groups have spent more than $35.4 million already on gubernatorial and legislative elections plus another $2.3 million to promote or oppose public ballot questions,'' said Brindle. "This mind-boggling total of nearly $38 million (is) unprecedented in state history.  It's a whole new world in New Jersey politics.''

Among the ten state elections that have drawn the heaviest independent spending since 2006, New Jersey currently ranks sixth.

"We already are in the top ten state races of all time, and the election still isn't over," said Brindle. "Before all is said and done on Tuesday I think we'll probably be in the top five."

A Super PAC operated by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is the leading independent spender in this year's elections. Garden State Forward has spent an estimated $11.9 million so far on gubernatorial and legislative elections. Super PACs are not subject to contribution limits under recent federal court cases that permit unlimited independent spending.

The NJEA, which also has spent more than $1.4 million through its regular political action committee that is subject to regular state contribution limits, has never before spent more than $2.3 million on an election, according to ELEC research.