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Rove Groups Lead Outside Spending Blitz on Colorado Elections

Republican leaning groups such as American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have been pouring money into the Colorado race

(Bloomberg) — Colorado may be the No. 1 election battleground in the U.S. for Republicans, if the money pouring into the state is any measure. Independent groups reported spending $9.4 million on federal campaigns there between Sept. 1 and Oct. 12, more than in any other state, with $7.5 million — 80 percent — going to help Republican candidates, records show. Leading the way were two groups advised by strategist Karl Rove, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which said yesterday they have raised $56 million for races nationwide, exceeding their $50 million goal.

The state may provide the best measure of the power of outside money in American elections this year. Critics say a Supreme Court decision that freed corporations to spend funds from their treasuries on elections has spurred a flood of special interest money that's mainly helping Republicans.

"You can't have your television on for 10 or 15 minutes without seeing at least two or three ads saying that someone shouldn't have been born," said Kenneth Bickers, chairman of the political science department at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "It's the stakes that drive campaign ads. This is a state where Democrats might be able to hold a seat or Republicans could pick it up." While Colorado supported Obama in 2008, it lined up for Republicans in nine of the 10 previous presidential elections. It also went from having two Republican senators and only two Democratic members of the House to the opposite.

Bennet's Race

Now, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet is facing a "tossup" race against Republican Ken Buck, according to the Cook Political Report. And Colorado features three House Democrats, Ed Perlmutter, John Salazar and Betsy Markey, whose close contests also make them vulnerable to Republican attacks. With an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, Colorado is beating the national average, yet isn't faring as well as neighbors such as Kansas, Nebraska and Utah. Buck, like the pro-Republican outside groups, has focused on the issue of government spending, trying to appeal to voters' concern over the deficit.

Colorado is "very much a swing state, and Republicans think they can drive it back" into the party's control, said Timothy Wirth, a Democrat and former Colorado senator. Republicans need to gain 39 House seats and 10 Senate seats to win control of Congress.

'Hijacking' of Democracy

So much money has flowed into Colorado that the state has become a focal point of complaints by Democrats about tax-exempt organizations not naming their donors. David Plouffe, an adviser to President Barack Obama, last week singled out Colorado, saying it's part of a "hijacking of our democracy" nationwide.

The money — most of which is directed at Bennet's race against Buck, a favorite of Tea Party activists critical of federal government power — can have an outsized effect in Colorado.

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