WASHINGTON -- The political groups co-founded by GOP political strategist Karl Rove are raising funds at a slower pace than they did in the last election cycle.
The Rove-linked Crossroads groups and their affiliates raised $3.4 million in the first six months of 2013, according to Federal Election Commission filings and a spokesman for the groups. That's likely much lower than in the first six months of 2011, when one of the groups, American Crossroads, raised $3.9 million -- $2 million more than the group raised through June of this year. Crossroads GPS, the Rove-backed "dark money" nonprofit, doesn't disclose fundraising details, preventing a complete comparison with 2011 fundraising.
The Rove groups, the single-biggest source of money in the 2012 elections, still have time in this election cycle to tap their wealthy donors to increase funds. But they're recovering from a perception that they spent a huge amount of money in the 2012 elections, mostly on candidates who lost.
American Crossroads, the super PAC that spent $100 million on 2012 elections, raised nearly $1.9 million this year. The biggest chunk of that was a $1 million contribution from Harold Simmons' Contran Corp. Simmons, a billionaire who has called President Barack Obama a "socialist," was one of American Crossroads' biggest donors in both 2010 and 2012.
Other large corporate donors to American Crossroads included Rooney Holdings, which gave $150,000, and Skybridge Capital, with a $100,000 donation.
"Our fundraising results so far are roughly comparable to where we were at this point in 2011, when you consider the absence of a presidential election this cycle," Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in an email.
Crossroads GPS, the non-disclosing nonprofit that spent $70 million on reported electoral advocacy in 2012, has raised just $1.45 million this year, according to Collegio.
Since winter, Crossroads GPS has focused much of its energy on issues, including the fiscal cliff and immigration reform. In December, Crossroads GPS ran ads targeting vulnerable Democratic senators in the run-up to the vote on averting the fiscal cliff.
The Crossroads groups announced a new project, Conservative Victory Project, early in 2013 to counter more extreme elements of the Republican Party in primary elections. The effort came after Republicans nominated Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who were prone to wild statements about rape and basic reproductive science.
“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” Crossroads President Steven Law told The New York Times when the group launched the Conservative Victory Project.
According to a report filed on Wednesday, the Conservative Victory Project has raised only $5,660 in the first half of 2013. All of the contributions came from American Crossroads, the parent super PAC.
The youth-focused arm of Crossroads, Crossroads Generation, reported raising $52,837 in the first half of 2013.
The Crossroads groups were lambasted after Democrats swept nearly all the races where American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent money, including Obama's wide Electoral College victory over Republican Mitt Romney.
Obama strategist David Axelrod said after the campaign, "If I were one of those billionaires funding Crossroads and other organizations, I’d be wanting to talk to someone and asking where my refund is, because they didn’t get much for their money.”
Rove defended the groups to donors, on television and in print following Romney's defeat and the expansion of the Democratic Senate majority. He told The Washington Post in an interview, "We did good things this year. But look, it’s the way of politics that you’re going to have some good years, and you’re going to have some bad years.”
Crossroads fundraising may be swooning because of the April death of Republican mega-donor Bob Perry. Perry was the fourth-biggest donor to American Crossroads in the 2012 election and was always available to provide contributions early in the cycle. Before his death, Perry made two final super PAC contributions, a $1 million contribution to former senator and Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Action and a $100,000 contribution to the pro-Mitch McConnell Kentuckians for Strong Leadership.