WASHINGTON -- “Super PACs” and other outside groups have reported spending more than $119 million on the presidential campaign since Mitt Romney unofficially clinched the Republican nomination in early April, a sum that underscores the profound impact independent political groups are having on the 2012 presidential race.
Two-thirds of that money has gone into television ads and other efforts opposing President Obama’s reelection and backing Romney’s bid, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by the Times Data Desk.
Readers can track the spending by outside groups with a new online tool, which provides the expenditures for each group and a sample of the television ads that have shaped each week of the race.
The number of outside groups engaging in campaign activity increased exponentially in the last two years, the result of a series of federal court decisions that allowed corporations to make unlimited political expenditures and blessed the creation of super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums.
Ostensibly, super PACs must operate independent of the candidates and political parties. But both Obama and Romney are being backed by super PACs run by former aides. The pro-Romney Restore Our Future has spent $28.5 million against Obama so far. The pro-Obama Priorities USA Action has poured in nearly $21.5 million against Romney. (Both groups have spent additional funds on ads backing their candidates.)
The figures reveal just part of the picture of outside spending, however. While super PACs must report their spending to the Federal Election Commission, tax-exempt advocacy groups only have to report money they spend on certain kinds of ads.
And those groups, which do not disclose their donors, have been some of the most active in this campaign.
Together, American Crossroads and its nonprofit arm, Crossroads GPS, are expected to spend $300 million, and Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaire energy executives and brothers David and Charles Koch, has a $151-million budget. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to pump at least $50 million into congressional races — which means those four groups alone could account for half a billion dollars of spending in the 2012 cycle.
Crossroads co-founder Karl Rove told donors in a private briefing Thursday that conservative outside groups spent $110 million against Obama just between May 15 and July 31, Bloomberg reported Friday.