By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 13, 2010; 8:50 PM
The conservative group American Crossroads, which has been singled out for criticism by President Obama and other Democrats, said Wednesday that it has shattered its fundraising goals in the face of such attacks and will now expand its efforts into House races as a result.
American Crossroads and its nonprofit affiliate, Crossroads GPS, will join two other Republican-friendly groups in a "House surge strategy," spending up to $50 million in competitive districts over the next three weeks, officials said. The Crossroads groups will also expand their spending in Senate races.
The plans pose yet another threat to Democrats' wavering hold on Congress, as Republicans and their allies expand the playing field into more states.
A tide of record expenditures by outside groups has allowed Republicans to broaden their targets well beyond the 40 seats needed to take over the House and put them within striking distance of winning the Senate. Embattled Democrats, by contrast, are retreating from some districts in an attempt to minimize their expected losses.
The GOP expenditures have come under increasing criticism from Obama and other Democrats, who have focused on the big-spending Chamber of Commerce and the two Crossroads affiliates, which were formed with the encouragement of Republican political guru Karl Rove. The attacks have included unsubstantiated allegations by the Democratic National Committee and others that the chamber might be spending foreign donations on U.S. elections, an accusation the business lobby denies.
Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said conservative outrage over the Democratic attacks helped the Crossroads group raise more than $13 million in the past week, shattering the group's $52 million fundraising goal for the cycle. The two affiliates now expect to raise $65 million by Nov. 2.
"Democrats who lose in November due to the surge strategy or expanded Senate efforts can send thank-you notes to the White House and DNC, which helped us generate the funding for this strategy," Collegio said.
The other groups involved in the House spending campaign are the American Action Network, headed by former senator Norm Coleman (R) of Minnesota, and the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, founded by GOP campaign consultant Scott Reed.
Facing an onslaught of attack ads and dismal poll numbers, top Democrats have sought to raise questions about Crossroads GPS and other outside groups that do not have to disclose their donors because they are organized as nonprofit organizations. A recent Washington Post analysis found that most outside expenditures are made by groups that do not have to reveal their donors.
Obama said at a rally Sunday that "you don't know" whether groups such as the chamber are using money from big business or foreign nationals to fund election ads. Vice President Biden escalated the criticism by challenging the chamber to open its books and arguing that denials of foreign influence could not be trusted.
Spending by groups outside the political parties has eclipsed $100 million, according to Federal Election Commission records, which do not include tens of millions of dollars in other political ads not reported to the FEC. The liberal Media Matters Action Network says it has tallied more than 60,000 ads from conservative groups since August.
The chamber has pledged to spend up to $75 million on the midterms, almost exclusively in favor of Republicans.
On Wednesday, Crossroads said it was pouring an additional $3.7 million into Senate contests in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Nevada, and will contribute $10 million to the joint House effort with the Coleman and Reed groups. The Crossroads affiliates say they have raised $56 million so far; only donors to the main political committee will be reported to the FEC.