WASHINGTON -- Two affiliated groups led by a blue-chip cast of Washington Republican strategists have raised a combined $32 million this year, using new freedom from fundraising restrictions to create a parallel and unofficial Republican campaign to defeat Democrats in November.
American Crossroads and its political sibling, Crossroads GPS, raised about $14.5 million in the 30-day period that ended Sunday, a signal that their aggressive advertising and voter outreach in key Senate battleground states have struck a chord with Republican donors.
The two groups were launched under the direction of two of President George W. Bush's top political advisers, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, who still serve as informal advisers. They are among the most prominent groups in an emerging network of Republican-allied organizations that are helping make this year's midterm elections the most expensive on record.
Under rules liberalized by both the Supreme Court and a federal appellate court, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations. American Crossroads is registered with the Federal Election Commission and as such must reveal its donors, but Crossroads GPS is registered only as a nonprofit with the IRS and doesn't have to disclose its sources of money.
The two Crossroads groups have launched ads attacking Democrats or supporting Republicans in Senate contests in Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and California. New rounds of ads are scheduled for this week in Missouri and Colorado, as well as new spots in Nevada and New Hampshire, American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said.
The fundraising figures, made available to The Associated Press, place the two Crossroads groups on track to meet their goal of $52 million by Election Day, and put them on virtually the same financial footing as the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Among the other groups helping Republicans with millions in ad spending are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; a group founded by billionaire conservative David Koch called Americans for Prosperity; and a California-based political action committee called the Tea Party Express that has capitalized on the loose, grass-roots tea party movement.
That assistance is designed to make up for the financial advantage the national Democratic Party has over the Republican Party. What's more, organized labor plans to spend $100 million or more for Democrats.
But the success of American Crossroads and the alliances it has forged with other nonparty political groups to carry out a coordinated media and ground-game strategy have caused a stir within the Democratic Party.
President Obama on Saturday decried "the flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names. We don't know who's behind these ads or who's paying for them."
Democrats in the past have organized similar outside groups to assist the party, but new court rulings have made it easier for groups that can conceal donors to raise more money in unlimited amounts.
Legislation to require groups that air political ads to divulge their donors passed the House this year but has stalled in the Senate. Another vote to break the Senate stalemate could come in the next few weeks.
While Crossroads GPS donors are secret, American Crossroads filings with the Internal Revenue Service and with the FEC show that the group initially built itself with large contributions.
Companies controlled by major Republican donor Harold Simmons have donated $2 million.
Simmons bankrolled ads in 2008 linking then-candidate Obama to William Ayers, a Vietnam-era militant who helped found the violent Weather Underground. Other million-dollar donors include Bradley Wayne Hughes, founder and chairman of Public Storage; former Univision president Jerry Perenchio; and Trevor Rees-Jones, founder of Chief Oil and Gas.
A new report, covering American Crossroads' August fundraising, is due to be filed Monday with the FEC. Collegio said the level of funding for both groups was similar.
Collegio said the groups are now getting "broad support from big and small donors."