Gov. race: Spending by outside groups approaches $10 million

Outside advocacy groups have already spent nearly $10 million in the gubernatorial campaign, despite the lack of a competitive primary.

That number is just $4 million off the estimated $14 million spent in the entire 2009 gubernatorial contest, according to a report from the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

“We have predicted that outside groups will spend as much as $25 million in the current campaign. Given that an estimated $10 million already has been spent to influence this year’s election, our estimate could end up on the low side,’’ ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said.

To date the Committee for our Children’s Future, an advocacy group founded by friends of Gov. Chris Christie and run by one of his closest advisors, has spent $7.8 million over the past two years advocating for the governor’s agenda.

Liberal advocacy group One New Jersey already has spent $1.8 million on a series of attack ads against the governor’s record.  The group is not required to disclose its donors so it’s unknown who funds them.

A third group, Garden State Forward, has spent $270,336 so far in this election.

The impact the groups will ultimately have is unknown.  Despite the $1.8 million in television ads funded by One NJ, Christie’s latest poll numbers have not budged.  According to the latest Marist University poll, he leads his presumptive opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, by 34 points among likely voters and his approval rating was 68 percent.

Those numbers have held steady since Buono entered the race in December.

Still, the expenditure from outside groups is expected to be unprecedented in the current contest, and will likely include heavy expenditures from groups such as the Republican and Democratic governors associations.

Gov. race: Spending by outside groups approaches $10 million