WASHINGTON — The Republicans' shadow party is basking in the shade.
Two affiliated groups led by a blue-chip cast of Washington Republican strategists have raised a combined $32 million so far this year, using new freedom from fundraising restrictions to create a parallel and unofficial Republican campaign to defeat Democrats in November.
American Crossroads and its political sibling, Crossroads GPS, raised about $14.5 million in the 30-day period that ended Sunday, a signal that their aggressive advertising and voter outreach in key Senate battleground states have struck a chord with Republican donors.
Word that the group nearly doubled their previous fundraising in just four weeks comes as President Barack Obama renews his attack on Republican outside groups that have been airing ads against Democrats.
The two Crossroads groups have launched ads attacking Democrats or supporting Republicans in Senate contests in Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and California. New rounds of ads are scheduled for this week in Missouri and Colorado, as well as new spots in Nevada and New Hampshire, American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said.
The two groups were launched under the direction of two of President George W. Bush's top political advisers, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, who still serve as informal advisers. They are among the most prominent groups in an emerging network of Republican-allied organizations that are helping make this year's midterm elections the most expensive on record.
Such outside groups are helping the Republican Party maintain spending parity with Democrats and their labor allies. New fundraising reports filed Monday show that Democratic Party committees retained their fundraising advantage over the Republican Party.
Under rules liberalized by both the Supreme Court and a federal appellate court, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations. American Crossroads is registered with the Federal Election Commission and as such must reveal its donors, but Crossroads GPS is registered only as a nonprofit with the IRS and doesn't have to disclose its sources of money.
Collegio said the fundraising by the two groups was at "similar levels." In a report to the FEC filed Monday, American Crossroads showed that the bulk of its August fundraising came from three donors: $1 million from Robert Rowling, a Texas Republican donor and CEO of a company whose holdings include Omni Hotels; $1 million from Trevor Rees-Jones, founder of Chief Oil and Gas, and $400,000 from American Financial Group, an Ohio insurance company whose chairman is major GOP donor Carl Lindner.
The August numbers overlapped but did not comprise all of the new fundraising announced by the two groups. Collegio said the $14.5 million raised by both groups over the most recent 30 days reflects a spike in fundraising since Labor Day.
Past IRS and FEC reports show that American Crossroads has received $2 million from companies controlled by Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, a major Republican donor. Simmons bankrolled ads in 2008 linking then-candidate Obama to William Ayers, a Vietnam-era militant who helped found the violent Weather Underground. Other million-dollar donors include Bradley Wayne Hughes, founder and chairman of Public Storage, and former Univision president Jerry Perenchio.
The latest fundraising figures announced by the two Crossroads groups, place them on track to meet their goal of $52 million by Election Day.
Among the other groups helping Republicans with millions in ad spending are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; a group founded by billionaire conservative David Koch called Americans for Prosperity; and a California-based political action committee called the Tea Party Express that has capitalized on the loose, grass-roots tea party movement.
That assistance is designed to make up for the financial advantage the national Democratic Party has over the Republican Party. What's more, organized labor plans to spend $100 million or more for Democrats.
On Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported raising $8.3 million in August, compared to $6.6 million for its Republican counterpart, and had more than a $13 million cash on hand advantage. The Democrats' senatorial campaign arm reported raising $7.4 million – including $1 million from New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer's campaign fund – to the Republican's $6 million.
But the success of American Crossroads and the alliances it has forged with other nonparty political groups to carry out a coordinated media and ground-game strategy have caused a stir within the Democratic Party.
President Barack Obama on Saturday decried "the flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names. We don't know who's behind these ads or who's paying for them."
Democrats in the past have organized similar outside groups to assist the party, but new court rulings have made it easier for groups that can conceal donors to raise more money in unlimited amounts.
Legislation to require groups that air political ads to divulge their donors passed the House this year but has stalled in the Senate. Another vote to break the Senate stalemate could come in the next few weeks.