Outside groups from environmentalists to gun owners have poured more than $20 million into N.C. campaigns, a record level of spending fueling a surge of attack ads in the state's top races.
That's on top of the millions of dollars campaigns are spending on their own.
“It's safe to say Christmas has come early to the broadcasters there,” said Evan Tracey, who runs the Arlington-based Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks campaign advertising.
Most of the outside money has gone to the U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Kay Hagan. And a lot has gone into the governor's race between Democrat Bev Perdue and Republican Pat McCrory.
But third-party groups also are spending big in congressional and legislative races.
“It's disturbing particularly because it means our elections are dominated by outside interests,” said Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan election watchdog.
“You have the problem of so much money that it can change the character of the campaign by pushing one issue to the forefront that may not be … what should be important to North Carolinians.”
Less than two weeks before the election, the dollars keep coming.