- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Spending by special interest groups broke a record this year in New Jersey, and most of it went toward helping Democrats pick up enough Assembly seats to give the party its biggest majority since 1979, according to new figures released Wednesday.

The groups’ $10.7 million amounted to 35 percent of all money spent in the 2015 general election, the highest share for independent expenditures since a Supreme Court decision paved the way in 2010.

“Their involvement had a dramatic impact,” said Jeff Brindle, executive director of the Election Law Enforcement Commission. “Virtually all the $10.7 million in independent spending benefited Democratic candidates, plus they also spent 2.5 times more than Republican candidates.”

Democrats gained four seats in the Assembly, and Republicans blamed the loss in part on spending from the outside groups.

The independent spending spiked in New Jersey after the Citizens United decision paved the way for super PACs, groups that can accept contributions of any size but are not allowed to coordinate with candidates’ campaigns.



Total spending, including from individual candidates and outside groups, amounted to $30.5 million.

The biggest outside spender was General Majority PAC, which spent $5.9 million. The group was supported by more than $3.6 million in contributions from another group allied with the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association.

Democrats defeated a Republican in southern New Jersey’s 1st District and beat two GOP incumbents in the 11th District centered in Monmouth County. In the 16th, which includes Princeton, a Democrat also defeated a Republican incumbent. Democrats held both seats in northern New Jersey’s 38th District, which were closely contested in previous contests.

Areas that saw big spending were the 1st, 2nd and 38th districts.

“A handful of districts typically attract the most campaign money because the voter mix in those districts is more even. That makes them more competitive than most other districts around the state,” Brindle said.

Democrats suggested that their boost in numbers in the Assembly was a rebuke of Gov. Chris Christie, who has spent a lot of time out of state campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination as he enters the final two years of his second term.

Democrats, who have a voter registration advantage over Republicans, also benefited from a fundraising edge in 2015.

Through Nov. 20, the party raised $15.8 million and spent $14.1 million. Republicans brought in $6.5 million and doled out $5.6 million.

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