10/21/2010 11:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hydra of independent groups fuels Republican side

Outside groups aligned with Republicans are dominating spending on independent expenditures in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections. As of October 20, these groups have spent more than $99 million, more than twice as much as the party committees tasked with electing Republicans to the House of Representatives and the Senate, to both support Republican candidates and oppose Democratic candidates.

These non-party groups are supplanting the traditional role of party committees on the Republican side. Nearly all of the money spent on independent expenditures to support Republicans or oppose Democrats comes from groups that exclusively spend money to aid Republicans.

Four of the top five non-party spenders are supported and run by a series of political operatives who, in effect, make up the Republican Party in exile. American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, The 60-Plus Association and Americans for Job Security are linked together by their connections to the power structure that won elections for the Republican Party from the 1990s to the end of the George W. Bush presidency. So far, these four organizations have spent $35.97 million attacking Democrats and praising Republicans.

By contrast, the official G.O.P. congressional committees -- the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) -- have spent a little less than $49 million on independent expenditures.

With the Republican National Committee (RNC) in shambles and the campaign committees hampered by contribution limits and disclosure rules, these outside groups have emerged as a replacement for the traditional party structure and they are largely being funded by a shadow establishment that operates in the dark without disclosure rules that have been ostensibly waived by the Supreme Court. There is no similar equivalent on the Democratic side.

The largest and highest spending of these groups is the two-headed organization comprised of American Crossroads, organized as a 527 and a Super PAC, and Crossroads GPS, organized as a 501(c)4 non-profit. These two organizations--both share the same PO Box number--are made up of the Republican Party in exile.

There's much more to this story at The Sunlight Foundation blog.