WASHINGTON - Two outside conservative advocacy groups have given Republican Randy Altschuler a definite edge over Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in the ad war in the much-watched congressional race on Long Island's East End.
The race in the 1st Congressional District is by far the most expensive on Long Island, totaling $5.7 million so far, including a three-way GOP primary with $3.2 million in spending, according to federal campaign finance filings.
Outsiders join fight
But now that total is rising with the involvement of a handful of outside groups, with two groups injecting the most into the fiercely fought contest.
The 60 Plus Association and the Alliance for America's Future, both nonprofit membership organizations, reported a total of $509,000 in independent expenditures on TV ads attacking Bishop and boosting Altschuler, federal campaign finance filings show.
Combined with the $350,000 that Altschuler reported spending on media buys for advertising since he won the Sept. 14 GOP primary, the pro-Altschuler forces have spent nearly twice as much as Bishop.
Bishop reported almost $445,000 in expenses for broadcast ads in his campaign finance filing Friday covering fundraising and expenditures between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30.
By law, the two outside groups cannot coordinate or consult with either candidate on their independent expenditures, but Bishop's campaign expressed skepticism Friday.
"It's very disconcerting that groups with anonymous donors are working hand in glove with a millionaire outsourcer to buy a seat in Congress," said Bishop aide Jon Schneider.
But Rob Ryan, an aide to Altschuler, denied any coordination with either group.
"Since we don't have any contacts with these folks," Ryan said, "I don't have any idea of how much money is behind it."
Both groups are organized as membership nonprofits, known technically as 501(c)4 groups, which aren't required to disclose the names of donors.
Groups attack incumbent
The 60 Plus Association, which bills itself as the conservative counterpart to the AARP, spent $147,693 to attack Bishop for voting for the health-care overhaul.
It spent $270,000 attacking Bishop for voting in favor of the agenda of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), and $90,000 boosting Altschuler, mostly before the primary.
Altschuler and Bishop raised about the same amount of money - $287,739 and $292,804 - and Altschuler spent slightly more - $949,646 to $804,496 - between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30, their filings show.
But Bishop has $1 million in the bank compared with Altschuler's $639,500.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) reported spending $84,500 - including a $50,000 donation to the National Republican Congressional Committee. His Democratic opponent Howard Kudler spent $2,524 after loaning his campaign $77,562.