WASHINGTON — President Obama pumped three times more money into media ads than Republican challenger Mitt Romney last month as both candidates dramatically stepped up their spending, racing through as much money as they brought in.
August marked Romney's fastest rate of spending yet in the general election: His campaign burned through all $66 million it raised, double what it spent in July, according to documents it filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
But Obama matched that in media ads alone last month, spending $66.3 million, more than three times the $18.4 million Romney put into television and radio commercials.
The spending reports underscore the divergent strategies of the two campaigns: While Obama has poured tens of millions into television ads this summer casting Romney as a businessman who favors the rich, the Republican candidate has saved much of his arsenal for an intensive media blitz this fall.
But spending by the Republican National Committee and outside groups have made up the advertising gap. The party ran $25 million worth of ads supporting Romney and attacking Obama in August. Romney got additional air cover from Restore Our Future, a "super PAC" run by his former advisors, which spent nearly $20 million on media. And nonprofit groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity poured millions more into ads last month.
Romney, meanwhile, diverted substantial resources into raising more money, spending $11.5 million on direct mail and $2.3 million on telemarketing and data management. An additional $8.4 million went to online ads, digital consulting and website development. About $4 million was categorized as consulting costs, much of which went to firms run by senior Romney advisors.
On top of that, the campaign spent more than $4 million on payroll in August — including at least $207,000 in extra payments on Aug. 31 to nine top staffers, including $25,000 to campaign manager Matt Rhoades and $25,000 to communications director Gail Gitcho.
The campaign's intense burn rate took a toll: It took out a $20-million bank loan on Aug. 22 to tide it over until the following week, when Romney officially became the Republican nominee and was able to use money raised for the general election. The campaign paid off $5 million of the loan nine days later.
As it has been since he secured the nomination, Romney's spending was eclipsed by that of the president, who shelled out $83 million in August — up from $58.5 million in July — while taking in $84.7 million.
Nearly 80% of the Obama campaign's spending in August went to media. The campaign spent an additional $4.4 million on payroll and $2.5 million on online advertising.
Obama's air assault on Romney was bolstered by the super PAC Priorities USA Action, which enjoyed its best fundraising month yet and pumped $8.7 million into media attacking the Republican candidate.
The group, founded by two former White House aides, brought in $10.1 million in August, outraising its pro-Romney counterpart, Restore Our Future, for the first time.
The biggest donors to Priorities included James H. Simons, a billionaire New York hedge fund manager who gave $2 million, and Anne Cox Chambers, owner of the media empire Cox Enterprises, who chipped in $1 million after giving $500,000 in July.
The group also scored big with trial lawyers, who accounted for at least $2.8 million of the August haul, including $1 million from Houston-based attorney Steve Mostyn and $100,000 from the American Assn. for Justice PAC. A number of labor unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and AFSCME, infused the group with more than $1 million.
Meanwhile, the Romney-supporting Restore Our Future raised $7 million, a fraction of what it spent, with about $1.5 million coming from energy companies, including Texas oil firms and companies that serve the drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, industry.
The group got two $1-million donations: one from Bob Parsons, the billionaire founder of GoDaddy.com, the Web domain company, and another from OdysseyRe, an insurance company whose chairman is Prem Watsa. Watsa's holding company also is the largest stockholder in Research in Motion Ltd., the BlackBerry maker.
An additional $500,000 came from Richard Roberts, president of a New Jersey pharmaceutical company. Companies owned by the Falic family from Florida contributed $100,000; they are major backers of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political campaigns.