By JACK GILLUM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Major donors supportive of President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney spent millions of dollars last month to get their candidate elected. But outside political groups helping Romney are poised to account for a growing share of that fundraising largess.
Both Obama and Romney's campaigns showed strong fundraising hauls in May. Romney's campaign joined with the Republican Party to raise more than $76 million last month, outpacing Obama and the Democrats' $60 million haul during the same period.
Meanwhile, GOP-supportive "super" political committees — operating under relaxed campaign-finance regulations — are expected to bring in more than $1 billion this election, according to an Associated Press review of past campaign spending data and fundraising projections. That includes cash that outside groups have spent on expensive advertising critical of Obama.
The calculus raises the specter that Obama, who broke fundraising records four years ago by hauling in $750 million, may be the first incumbent president to be out-raised by his opponent. Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash but can't coordinate their efforts with the candidates they support.
One group, Restore Our Future, on Wednesday reported raising $8 million in May and $64 million so far. It spent more than $55 million to defeat Romney's opponents during the GOP primary, and it plans high-dollar financial aid from both Romney supporters and his former opponents' donors.
Indeed, the latest financial filings for one of the top pro-Romney PAC shows that while he was consolidating his position as the GOP favorite, backers of some of his opponents were shifting their financial allegiance to his cause — even as some of his loyal super PAC backers dug deeper to bankroll the committee's operations.
The biggest contributions to Restore Our Future came from a trio of firms linked to a Houston-based businessman who previously backed a super PAC supporting Romney rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The disclosures show that three companies based at the same post office box office in Dayton, Ohio, each gave $333,333 to the pro-Romney super PAC. Corporation records show the firms are headed by Houston businessman Robert T. Brockman.
Although super PACs are required to divulge major donors, loose disclosure rules allow contributors to withhold their names and mask their donations by setting up corporations to maintain their anonymity. One of Restore Our Future's early donors, Edward Conard, masked a $1 million contribution last year behind an unknown company, W Spann LLC, until public pressure forced him to acknowledge his name and affiliation with Romney's former private equity firm, Bain Capital.
Meanwhile, Obama's campaign reported $109.7 million in the bank at the end of May but spent more than it took in during the same period. The campaign collected $39.1 million and spent $44.5 million during the month. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, had $29.6 million cash on hand at end of the month, raising about $20 million during the period and spending $14.6 million.
A super PAC working in Obama's favor, Priorities USA Action, reported raising $4 million last month. The group said their contributions in May marked its best fundraising month so far, while calling its financial support a sign of the PAC's growing momentum.
Even with outside financial strength, Romney is taking few chances at being outspent by his opponent. His campaign is hosting a gathering this weekend for contributors who have raised tens of thousands of dollars apiece for his campaign.
Associated Press writers Stephen Braun and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.