- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day is upon the nation, and groups that did not even exist just weeks ago are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to sway voters, while the big-money advertisers are switching to boots-on-the-ground tactics.

Americans for Responsible Leadership, a Republican group that made its first-ever buy only Oct. 18, has spent $3.3 million on phone banking — enough for a whole lot of phone calls. A similar history exists for Super PAC for America, another Republican PAC that was largely dormant for months but has spent $600,000 since Saturday. And the Government Integrity Fund, another unknown group that had only $2,000 on hand as of the last reporting period, spent $400,000 on ads.

Final donor disclosures covered through Oct. 17, so any group that saw a major influx of funding past that time will do so without the donors being known until after the election.

The mainstays that have been spending throughout the campaign season are still at it, too, often changing tactics to such get-out-the-vote activities as paid canvassing.

American Crossroads, the Republican super PAC advised by Karl Rove, has spent $5.1 million since Saturday on television ads. After a lull in activity, the Chamber of Commerce spent $300,000 on get-out-the-vote phone calls for Senate races. But it was outspent by a union group, Workers’ Voice, at $400,000.

Unions have traditionally dominated the get-out-the-vote “ground game,” relying on paid canvassers, but Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, has assembled a formidable army of volunteer canvassers and in recent days switched to paid canvassers as well, and because its door-knocking activities don’t count as electioneering, the scale of their paid army, and that of others, will never be disclosed.

In all, $6 million in phone banking and $1 million in canvassing have been disclosed to the Federal Election Commission since Saturday. A total of $16 million has been spent by outside groups since this weekend.

They include some novel approaches, with one group paying $8,000 for a plane to fly its political message over the city.

Meanwhile, the candidates themselves have not stopped buying television airtime, even though space in the most congested markets is virtually gone. President Obama made 85 ad buys in the top 50 markets Monday — mostly in Florida and Cleveland — compared with 36 from Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Political groups of all stripes made more than 1,000 new ad buys Monday — with each ad buy representing multiple spots — according to The Washington Times’ exclusive ad tracker.

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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