Outside political groups spent $90 million on ads and activism in a single day Monday, a high-water mark in the history of political spending, as super PACs, parties and nonprofit political groups furiously unloaded money that will have little value to them in just one week.
Groups associated with George W. Bush political strategist Karl Rove have shelled out $30 million, mostly in support of GOP nominee Mitt Romney, since Monday alone, making Mr. Rove’s Crossroads network by far the biggest spender, at $200 million this election cycle, with a donor roster that is a virtual reprise of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that ran attack ads against Democratic Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
The spending by the ideological group dwarfed battles between candidate-specific super PACs that just months ago in the Republican primary seemed of unthinkable scale.
The super PAC that helped clear Mr. Romney’s path to the nomination has spent $19 million against President Obama since Monday, and the union- and trial lawyer-funded pro-Obama super PAC has countered with an ad buy of $11 million.
But more surprising was a barrage of ads from groups that are new to the scene.
Eight super PACs sprouted up or received their first contributions just after the Federal Election Commission’s last disclosure deadline of Oct. 17 and have spent $10 million. Because of the late start, the newest groups are not legally obliged to reveal their donors until after the election Nov. 6.
Chief among the new groups is one tied to independent New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that was formed Oct. 18 and has spent $6 million in House races, supporting a mix of Democrats and Republicans.
Other mystery PACs with names such as Republicans for a Prosperous America and the Hardworking Americans Committee have appeared seemingly from nowhere and spent $1 million or more in recent days.
But nonprofits that are ostensibly “social welfare” organizations have made up an ever-greater share of political spending this year, and they face no legal mandates to disclose their donors, even though their political activities at times have pushed the limits of Internal Revenue Service guidelines on disclosure.
One such group with no working phone number or email, called Patriot Majority, has spent $7 million since April, including $580,000 since Monday. Paperwork suggests the group has ties to labor union interests.
But outside spending in the final days of the campaign has favored Republicans by a margin of $75 million to $48 million for Democrat-leaning groups.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform spent $16 million during the course of the 2012 campaign, then added nearly $4 million just since Monday. Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership wrote its first federal-politics check Oct. 23 and has already spent $2 million. A lawsuit links the conservative group to Arizona financiers.
The League of Conservation Voters has spent $3 million this week, while the National Rifle Association has spent $1.5 million.
Groups that have had no previous record of political advertising have turned to the airwaves, with cash to burn and no time for other tactics, including American Bridge, a Democratic research opposition group that spent the last year conducting polling and writing papers.
All of that spending is on top of the money being spent by candidates themselves, who have still been begging for cash just days before votes are cast. Mr. Romney has raised $10 million from donors giving $1,000 or more since Oct. 17, double Mr. Obama’s large-donor haul.
After oil company Chevron gave $2.5 million to a House Republican super PAC this month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee asked online donors to counterbalance the corporate money and raised $10 million in five days, with a goal of making House Speaker John A. Boehner “shed a tear.”
That’s given Democrats in tight districts a huge boost, with the committee spending 15 times the amount its Republican counterpart doled out this week.
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Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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