- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

With November elections just around the corner, two Republican-friendly groups independently announced Tuesday that they collectively were spending $17 million to influence races in several battleground states.

The Karl Rove-backed super PAC American Crossroads’ $11 million ad buy features a new 30-second TV spot attacking President Obama in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. The effort will be supported with $1 million in radio ads purchased by the group’s affiliate Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS).

The TV ad criticizes the president’s handling of the economy and his overly optimistic predictions that his economic stimulus law would push the unemployment rate far below the national average of just above 8 percent.

“Obama’s weak leadership has yielded weak results and a weaker America,” said American Crossroads President and CEO Steven Law. “Staying on Obama’s course means a weaker America every day — that’s what this election is about.”

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS together also will spend about $4 million for TV spots blasting Democratic Senate candidates in Florida, Montana, Virginia and North Dakota. About half that amount is dedicated to defeating Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s bid for a third term.

(Corrected paragraph:) Another major outside group, Club for Growth Action, the super PAC affiliated with the conservative free-market group Club for Action, will spend $500,000 in TV ads on behalf of Republican Rep. Jeff Flake’s U.S. Senate run in Arizona and an equal amount backing GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana.

“There are lots of important Senate races around the country, but nowhere are the choices as clear as they are in Arizona and Indiana between candidates who would sink our economy and drown our country in red ink, and candidates who would promote job creation and fiscal discipline,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday also announced a $4 million ad buy in 10 U.S. House races in California and Illinois attacking Democratic or supporting Republican candidates. The business group said it’s the “largest and most aggressive voter education campaign” in its 100-year history.

Campaign spending by outside groups has exploded since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision striking down most limits on corporate and union spending in elections as violating First Amendment guarantees of free speech. That case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, allows such activity to take place without complete or immediate disclosure, preventing the public from understanding who is behind many political messages.

Spending by outside groups, including political action committees and super PACs, for the 2012 election cycle so far has topped $460 million, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan website that tracks campaign spending.

The Citizens United case has been criticized by most Democrats, including Mr. Obama, but generally applauded by Republicans. Yet Democrat-friendly outside groups, while greatly outspent in 2010, are catching up, as several are among the biggest super PACs.

Priorities USA Action, a top liberal super PAC that was created last year, has spent about $36 million on the presidential race. The House Majority PAC, which also was formed last year to “hold Republicans accountable and help win back the House majority for Democrats,” has spent more than $10 million, including a recent $1 million ad buy in Florida on efforts to defeat freshman Rep. Allen West, one of the tea party movement’s favorite politicians.