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Independent groups are dropping big bucks to influence dozens of state legislative races, spending more than $4.8 million on television ads, mail pieces and other campaign activities since the beginning of August.

Not surprisingly, more than half that spending has targeted three competitive Senate races that could determine whether Democrats hold a two-thirds majority in the upper house.

The most cash has been spent in Southern California's 27th Senate District, where committees have dropped more than $1 million on the race between Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley and Republican challenger Todd Zink. San Joaquin County's 5th Senate District battle between Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, and Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, was a close second for outside spending, with $922,000 in independent expenditures reported so far.

The amount of cash spent by independent expenditures committees, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates for state office, is expected to increase in the final four weeks of the campaign.

The Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces state campaign finance laws, released independent spending figures tallying expenditures exceeding $50,000 as part of an effort to promote broader disclosure.

"With independent expenditures, it is sometimes difficult for voters to track the true source of spending because frequently contributions are made to other independent expenditure committees, obscuring the identities of the original donors,"Commission Chair Ann Ravel said in a statement. "Disclosure is the best tool available for the voting public."

A full list of expenditures as of this morning and a chart showing which groups have spent the most, compiled by The Bee using data using information filed on the Secretary of State's website, is posted here..

General election independent expenditures in state legislative races as of 10/10/12:

Top spending independent expenditure committees:



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