Campaign fundraising tallies continued to dribble out Thursday, with President Obama's effort announcing a $70-million haul in the third quarter and party committees releasing their latest totals.

Obama's campaign easily exceeded its $55-million goal, but it came in at less than its second-quarter take in part because of the cancellation of more than a dozen fundraisers when the president was pinned down in Washington by the summertime debt crisis. Nevertheless, the tally outdistanced anything raised by the GOP candidates.

Of the $70-million total, $42.8 million was raised for Obama for America, the president's campaign committee, and $27.3 million went to the Democratic National Committee, which has a higher maximum contribution limit for individuals.

At this point in the 2004 campaign, President George W. Bush had raised $50.1 million for his reelection effort, then a record for a fundraising quarter in a preelection year.

Most of Obama's money — 98%, according to the campaign — came from small donations of $250 or less. In the last three months, more than 600,000 people gave money to the reelection effort.

Fundraising totals for Obama's GOP challengers also have trickled out in recent days, ahead of the Saturday filing deadline.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced last week he raised $17 million in August and September. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) took in $8 million from more than 100,000 individuals. And Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, will likely bring in $14 million, according to advisors. The rest of the GOP field has not divulged numbers.

Among other fundraising entities, the Republican National Committee said this week it had raised $9.3 million in September alone, a record for a nonelection year. The committee said it had $11.4 million in cash on hand.

The Democratic National Committee is expected to report raising $14.3 million in September, a spokesman said late Thursday.

For all the money sloshing around in the traditional campaign finance structure, the significance of those receipts is undercut this election cycle by the emergence of "super PACs" — including one announced Thursday that will raise unlimited amounts for Republican congressional candidates.

Super PACS, an outgrowth of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year, allow corporations, unions and individuals to contribute unlimited sums to organizations supporting a favored candidate or group of candidates as long as the new groups do not coordinate with the official campaigns. Campaigns, in contrast, operate under sharp restrictions on the size and source of donations.

Last year, outside groups such as American Crossroads played a notable role in shaping congressional elections by backing GOP candidates and causes in key districts. The Karl Rove-backed group, along with its nonprofit affiliate Crossroads GPS, raised more than $70 million for the 2010 cycle. For 2012, the group set a $240-million fundraising goal.

This year saw the emergence of super PACs aligned with specific candidates, including, at the presidential campaign level, Obama, Perry, Romney, Paul, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman Jr.

The new addition is the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican group that will launch on Nov. 2 with a fundraiser headlined by "special guests" House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

This is a second foray into super PACs by the chairman of the fund's board of directors, former Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Last year, he formed American Action Network, which promotes conservative causes.

"I always welcome another group to work with," said Carl Forti, a veteran Republican operative who serves as political director of American Crossroads and leads Restore Our Future, a Romney-aligned super PAC.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have formed similar organizations to raise funds for congressional candidates, and last week an aide to Cantor announced that he too was starting an outside group to back GOP candidates.

At least one group has formed to advocate for a single candidate: The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported last month that supporters of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) have organized the Strong Utah PAC to help the longtime senator fend off a primary challenge from the party's tea party flank.

A Democratic political consultant, David DiMartino, said the new money was upending the nature of congressional elections.

"In the current environment, any individual running for office has to be concerned that the campaign may be waged on issues completely out of their control," he said.

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

melanie.mason@latimes.com