- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Independent groups far outspent New Jersey’s political parties in last year’s election, state officials said.

The Election Law Enforcement Commission said in a report released Thursday that Democratic and Republican fundraising committees spent a combined $3.8 million in 2016. That’s down from $6.4 million in 2012, and $5.2 million in 2008.

But independent groups spent a combined $28 million on ballot questions including casino expansion and transportation funding in the 2016 election.

Commission executive director Jeff Brindle says the parties are losing ground to the independent groups who do not have to disclose donors or limit expenditures.

He predicts this year’s governor’s race will surpass the $40 million spent during the 2013 gubernatorial contest.

Most of the spending in the 2016 contest centered on the proposed amendment to allow casino gambling in two northern New Jersey locations. Most of that money went to defeat the question, which voters rejected. Other spending went to support an amendment to require gas tax revenue be spent only on transportation. That question succeeded.

New Jersey’s 12 House members were on the ballot in 2016, but no statewide offices were before voters.

The state’s Democratic state, Assembly and Senate committees raised $2.5 million and spent $2.2 million, while their Republican counterparts brought in $2 million and spent $1.6 million.

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