Karl Rove campaign groups outraised the DNC in 2012

In this 2012 file photo, Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. President George W. Bush, walks on the floor before the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Trumpeting the ever-increasing weight of outside political organizations, Karl Rove's campaign groups out-fundraised the Democratic National Committee during the 2012 election cycle, according to a draft tax returnobtained Friday by the Wall Street Journal.

American Crossroads and its nonprofit arm, Crossroads GPS, together raked in more than $325 million during the 2012 campaign. The DNC, by contrast, raised $316 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

It's a telling tale of the effects of the 2010 Supreme Court rulings on campaign fundraising, and one explanation for why candidates are becoming more maverick and less beholden to their parties: Outside groups are capable of raising large sums very quickly, whereas parties must rely on collecting small amounts from more people.

Uninhibited by campaign finance rules that limit individual contributions to national party committees to $30,800 a year, Crossroads GPS boasted $180 million in 2012 from 291 anonymous donors. Though the average donation was $618,000, according to the draft return, the biggest single contribution was $22.5 million.

Expenditures for Crossroads GPS included donations to other conservative groups like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and a $538,000 salary for its president, Steven Law.

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