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Republican congressional candidates race ahead in fundraising

House Republicans released their "Pledge to America" on Thurs., Sept. 23. The release of the 21-page plan came with far less fanfare than the 1994 announcement of the party's "Contract with America."

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By T.W. Farnam and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 17, 2010; 1:25 AM

Republican congressional candidates have sprinted ahead of Democrats in the race to raise money for the midterm elections, signaling a strong advantage for the GOP heading into the final two weeks of the campaign.

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In the House, GOP candidates reported raising $104 million from July through September, compared with $89 million for Democrats, new disclosure records show. In the 18 top Senate races, Republicans brought in nearly $60 million; their Democratic opponents raised less than $40 million.

The third-quarter numbers illustrate a turnaround in fundraising for Republican House candidates, who had lagged $3 million behind Democrats the previous quarter. GOP challengers in 34 key districts outraised the Democratic incumbents, increasing the chances that Republicans will gain control of the House.

The fundraising surge by individual campaigns coincides with an unprecedented wave of spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other Republican allies, who have spread resources across more than 100 congressional contests. Expenditures by outside groups have eclipsed $150 million, with most of the spending in the past few weeks.

The frenzy is being fueled in part by a relatively small number of rich donors - oil and gas industry chief executives, construction magnates and other tycoons - who are able to exert outsize influence in specific races. Recent court rulings have made it easier for corporations and wealthy individuals to make unlimited political contributions, much of it cloaked in secrecy.

Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said donors were "mobilizing behind fresh-faced conservative candidates looking to send a message to Washington."

One of the few bright spots for Democrats came at the party level, where the two congressional committees brought in more than $31 million in the third quarter, records show. The Republican equivalents raised less than $20 million.

J.B. Poersch, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that despite Republican success in fundraising, "our supporters are making sure Democrats have the resources they need to wage competitive races and ultimately keep Democrats in the Senate majority."

The new disclosures provide a glimpse at an array of wealthy donors and interest groups that are driving the spending on this year's elections.

In Colorado, for example, a Virginia-based group called the First Amendment Alliance has raised about $200,000 from a handful of Colorado energy, banking and media executives, including $50,000 from billionaire and longtime GOP donor Philip Anschutz, records show. The alliance has spent about the same amount on ads in Colorado attacking Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who is in a tight race with GOP candidate Ken Buck.

On the left, unions are also taking advantage of looser restrictions. In Nevada, the Patriot Majority PAC, which has spent $1.5 million to help Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D), has received most of its funding from labor unions and casinos, such as Harrah's and MGM Mirage.

The money has helped Reid stay even in the polls with GOP challenger Sharron Angle, whose campaign reported raising $14 million in the third quarter. Reid's campaign said it raised $2.8 million during the same period.


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