Pair of conservative groups raised $70 million in midterm campaign

By Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 2, 2010; 9:55 PM

A pair of conservative groups founded with the help of Republican political guru Karl Rove raised more than $70 million since their inception last spring, making them the undisputed leaders of an onslaught of outside spending on 2010 House and Senate races, according to new disclosures Thursday.

American Crossroads, a "super PAC" that can raise and spend as much money as it wants, took in nearly $28 million in donations, weighted heavily with large contributions from financiers, oil tycoons and other wealthy individuals, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Spokesman Jonathan Collegio also said Thursday that a sister group, Crossroads GPS, took in about $43 million this year. Because it is organized as a nonprofit, the second group does not have to reveal its donors.

"After a successful 2010, we are shifting toward our goals for 2011 and beyond," Collegio said, adding that the Crossroads duo will be "active throughout 2011 in support of a conservative, free-market legislative agenda."

The disclosures came amid a wave of reports from political committees and organizations that were filed Thursday at the FEC, covering the period from just before the Nov. 2 elections through Nov. 22.

The filings showed that both political parties took on a lot of debt this year - Republicans to capitalize on the pro-GOP environment, and Democrats in an unsuccessful bid to lessen the damage. Republicans picked up more than 60 seats in the House to regain control of the chamber.

The Republican National Committee had $15 million in debt at the end of last week and $1.9 million in the bank, underscoring the committee's continuing financial troubles under chairman Michael Steele. Well-heeled donors who previously wrote big checks to the party curtailed some of their support, while some of the RNC's expenditures, such as chartered airplanes, have been questioned.

The Democratic National Committee reported having $15.5 million in debts and $9.7 million on hand.

The GOP's House-race fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee, carried $12 million in debt and had $4.7 million in the bank. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was in worse financial shape, carrying $19.5 million in debt with $3 million in the bank. Overall, the DCCC spent $120 million on the election.

The new FEC filings also reveal more details about some of the major funding sources behind the remarkable spending spree of 2010, which saw a new wave of independent groups - mostly on the Republican side - rise to take advantage of court rulings easing restrictions on political expenditures.

Total spending on the midterms could eclipse $4 billion by the time all the receipts are counted, including more than $400 million by independent groups.

On the expenditure side, the American Crossroads umbrella reported spending nearly $40 million during the elections, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was close behind at more than $31 million. Neither of those numbers fully accounts for the groups' total spending, however, since many disbursements do not have to be reported to the FEC.

The latest FEC report from American Crossroads underscored the group's heavy reliance on wealthy individuals for its budget, which is not constrained by the same limits placed on candidates or parties. Big donors named in the latest report include Public Storage founder B. Wayne Hughes, who gave a total of $3.75 million to the group this year, and Chicago investment executives Anne and Kenneth Griffin, who gave a combined $500,000.

Alliance Management Holdings of Tulsa is also listed as giving $425,000 in the most recent reporting period. A similarly named firm, Alliance Resources Group LLC, with the same post-office box, previously gave $2 million, FEC records show.

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