Independent Groups Spent More Money Than Ever on NJ 2016 Ballot Questions

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - JULY 8: The roulette wheel spins at Caesars Atlantic City July 8, 2006 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Caesars, along with Atlantic City's 11 other casinos reopend this morning after they were forced to close their gambling floors for the first time in their 28-year history due to the New Jersey state budget impasse. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
The measure to expand gaming outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey into other parts of the state failed. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

A report released by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) on Wednesday details the amount of funds spent by various groups in relation to the questions that appeared on the November 2016 ballot. According to the report, independent groups either in support of or opposing the questions spent $28 million leading up to Election Day. $1.3 million of that was spent between November 2 and the November 8 election.

The amount spent by groups is record breaking “by leaps and bounds” according to ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle.

The two questions on the ballot statewide this year focused on allowing casino gambling outside of Atlantic City and whether or not the gas tax should be dedicated exclusively to the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). According to the ELEC report, approximately $24.6 million was spent on the casino question alone by independent groups. The TTF question pulled in $2.4 million and $884,460 was “spent independently on public referenda” at the local level.

Trenton’s Bad Bet spent the most statewide on the anti-casino measure with over $14.4 million. The second highest spenders on the casino question was Our Turn NJ with about $8.5 million spent.

Brindle said that spending this year is a “harbinger of things to come next year.” He said that reforms should be made to quell the influence of independent money on voters.

“Without reforms that strengthen political parties and require registration and disclosure by independent groups, outside organizations will submerge next year’s gubernatorial and legislative elections in a sea of dark money,” Brindle said.

The previous record for independent spending on ballot initiatives was set in 1976. Adjusted for inflation that spending amounted to $5.6 million according to ELEC. Independent Groups Spent More Money Than Ever on NJ 2016 Ballot Questions