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Reports show an election year awash in money

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PHILIP ELLIOTT | January 31, 2014 07:41 PM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON (AP) — An early but incomplete snapshot of 2013's political fundraising came into focus Friday, suggesting this election year will be flooded with money.

The political parties' major campaign committees raised more than $451 million last year, when there were only two races for governor and most politicians were looking ahead at this year's contests. That sum leaves out individual candidates' hauls and doesn't count many of the outside advocacy groups, which didn't share Friday's deadline to report to the Federal Elections Commission.

Friday's top-line numbers put Republicans and Democrats about on par with their fundraising, although the Democratic National Committee heads into this election year with more than $15 million in red ink. The Democratic committee focused on the Senate has another $3.75 million in debt.

Early reports show heavy spending will be the norm. The Republican Governors Association said it raised $50.3 million last year and has roughly the same amount in the bank. Its rival, the Democratic Governors Association, said it raised $28 million last year but did not release its bank balance.

There are 36 gubernatorial races in 2014. Of those, Republicans control the governor's office in 22 states.

The Democrats' committee to elect members to the House raised almost $76 million last year to fund its effort to retake the majority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported it has $29.3 million in the bank.

The National Republican Congressional Committee trailed, raising almost $61 million and banking $21 million for this year's elections.

The GOP enjoys a 32-seat advantage in the House, 232 Republicans to 200 Democrats. There are three open seats.

On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Democrats' campaign committee raised $52.6 million to defend their majority. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also reported it had banked $12 million, but it had $3.75 million in debt heading into the election year.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $36.6 million last year and had $8 million banked. It had no debt, meaning it had roughly the same amount of cash to send to its candidates as its Democratic rival.

Thirty-five Senate seats are up this year, and Democrats will be defending 21 of them. The balance of power in the Senate is 45 Republicans, 53 Democrats and two independents who generally vote with the Democrats. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to wrest the Senate from Democrats' control.

The Republican National Committee said it raised almost $81 million last year and has $9 million saved for this year's elections. The RNC said it's debt-free.

The RNC outraised the Democratic National Committee, which raised — and spent — about $65 million. The DNC ended the year carrying $15.6 million in debt.

Individual contenders also face the deadline.

Senators and Senate candidates must file paper reports to the Senate, but some choose to file electronically, too. There is usually a lag for paper filings before they make their way to the FEC.

House members and those looking to become representatives have to file their fundraising reports.

But some of the biggest spenders were not included in Friday's reports because, technically, they are not considered campaign operations. That means it will be months before a true assessment of political spending is possible.

One example is Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The group already has spent around $6 million to criticize Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and $1.7 million to criticize Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The two are among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats.

All told, the Koch-backed organization has spent more on television ads this year in seven states with competitive Senate races than all the outside Democratic groups combined have spent on Senate races in 10 hard-fought states. The group also has started a national advertising campaign on Fox News Channel and CNN.

To counter the Americans for Prosperity ads, former aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have begun airing ads defending incumbent Democrats. The effort, Senate Majority PAC, filed its report with the FEC showing it raised $8.6 million last year and has $3.2 million banked to keep Reid running the Senate.

Its largest donor: Michael Bloomberg. The former New York mayor, a political independent, wrote the group a $2.5 million check.

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Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott