Conservative Groups to Pump $4.2M into Key Senate Races

Karl Rove AP

AP

Two conservative groups are investing more than $4.2 million into a fresh round of advertising for Republican candidates in eight key Senate races, CBS News confirms.

American Crossroads, which was launched by former Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, is spending $770,000 in Colorado and $350,000 in Nevada, as first reported by Politico. The affiliated organization Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies is spending $350,000 in Florida, $1,070,000 in Illinois, $310,000 in Kentucky, $315,000 in Missouri, $300,000 in Pennsylvania and $780,000 in Washington state. The new funding will finance a week's worth of both new ads and ads already in rotation.

American Crossroads is required as a political group to disclose its contributors, but Crossroads GPS is a tax-exempt nonprofit group that does not reveal its donors.

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have raised more than $32 million this year, the New York Times recently reported, largely by seeking the support of an "old coalition of millionaires and billionaires who supported [President] Bush and have huge financial stakes in regulatory and tax policy."

As these groups grow in influence, they are attracting the attention of watchdog groups. Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, two campaign finance watchdog organizations, sent a letter to the IRS today calling for an investigation into Crossroads GPS' activities, since its tax-exempt status prohibits the group from "primarily" engaging in politics. Crossroads GPS leaders have said the organization is issue-based.

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If Crossroads GPS is violating its tax status, the letter from the watchdog groups said, the IRS must act. Otherwise, it said, "such abuses will become common place in the 2012 presidential and congressional races, at the expense of the credibility of the tax laws and of the right of the American people to know the identity of the donors who are providing the money to influence their votes and the amounts they are giving."

The new influx of cash comes on the heels of news that the Democratic National Committee pulled in an impressive $16 million in donations last month, with 80 percent coming from small donors. Additionally, the Democratic party has a strong cash-on-hand advantage over the Republican party.

But while the GOP establishment may be behind in fundraising, outside groups like American Crossroads are becoming an increasingly influential factor. Outside groups have spent $80 million on advertising in this election so far, according to a Washington Post report -- five times as much as outside groups spent in 2006. Conservative groups have outspent their Democratic counterparts seven to one in recent weeks, according to the Post.

In Colorado, American Crossroads is airing an ad casting Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet as a shill for Wall Street. The group has already spent $2 million in television ads and mailers opposing Bennet, the Denver Post reports. By contrast, Republican candidate Ken Buck has spent just about $1.1 million on campaign ads. Outside groups have spent $6.5 million in the state since Aug. 10, according to the Post, making it the state that has attracted the most outside money.



Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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