President Barack Obama entered the final five weeks of the Nov. 6 election with more campaign funds under his direct control than Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who benefits more from the national party and outside groups including super-political action committees.
Obama began October with $99.3 million left in his campaign account compared to $63.1 million for Romney, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission over the weekend. The reports detailed receipts and expenditures for September, before Romney rose in the polls following the first presidential debate on Oct. 3.
Overall, the pro-Romney side had more money to spend. The Republican National Committee began the month with $82.6 million in the bank compared to $4.6 million for the Democratic National Committee. The pro-Romney super-PACs Restore Our Future and American Crossroads together had $32.3 million left to spend compared to $7.3 million from the pro-Obama super-PAC, Priorities USA Action.
Romney also is benefiting from spending by non-profit groups such as Crossroads GPS that don’t disclose fundraising totals or donors.
The Obama campaign appealed for more campaign funds in an e-mail message last night that said the Republican money edge was “a problem,” warning that the opposition could “snatch this away from us” if the president’s backers “don’t get on board before it’s too late.”
The FEC reports underscore how both sides have plenty of money to fund television advertisements, campaign workers and get-out-the-vote operations on a limited battlefield of about nine competitive states.
Romney and his allies, even with the bigger combined funding, ran fewer commercials than Obama’s side during the first two weeks of October, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks campaign advertising. Between Oct. 2 and Oct. 15, pro-Obama groups ran 72,267 ads, compared with 51,794 run by Romney and his backers.
Obama has raised a total of more than $567 million for his re-election, including $126.1 million last month -- a sum enhanced by a boost in support from the financial sector, which has resisted giving to his re-election after supporting him in 2008. Romney has brought in more than $361 million, including $77.7 million in September.
The president also outspent Romney, $115.6 million to $65 million, last month. Obama spent $90 million and Romney spent $37 million on broadcast advertising, according to the FEC reports.
Romney’s expenditures during the month included $10 million to help pay down a $20 million loan, secured by general-election donations, that the campaign took out to cover spending until he officially became his party’s nominee in late August. The campaign now owes $5 million on the loan.
The Romney campaign gave bonuses totaling at least $217,500 to at least 10 senior campaign aides to augment their regular salaries, according to the FEC report. Political director Rich Beeson received $37,500 and campaign manager Matt Rhoades, policy director Lanhee Chen and communications director Gail Gitcho were among six campaign staff members who received $25,000 each. Three aides received $10,000.
The payments were made Sept. 12-13 from leftover funds raised for Romney’s primary campaign. Similar payments were made on Aug. 31, after the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
Obama picked up support in September from the financial industry, which has been the biggest source of campaign contributions to Romney, a co-founder of the Boston-based private equity fund Bain Capital LLC.
Employees of Bank of America Corp., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democratic convention was held, gave Obama more than $66,000, while employees of New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. donated more than $55,000.
Employees of the two banks gave Romney about $40,000 in total last month.
Obama’s campaign released an updated list of his top fundraisers, supporters who generate contributions from other individuals. Actress Eva Longoria is among those who have now raised more than $500,000 for the campaign, and former Republican Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, who ran for the Senate in 2010 as an independent, brought in between $100,000 and $200,000.
Romney has declined to release a list of his bundlers.
Romney’s September donations included $10,000 from the political action committee of Citizens United, the group whose lawsuit regarding an anti-Hillary Clinton film led to a 2010 Supreme Court decision that removed restrictions on campaign donations by companies and unions.
The PAC of Dallas-based AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, gave $5,000 to Romney last month. The Obama administration opposed AT&T’s proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile USA Inc., and the companies dropped their plans in December.
Priorities USA Action raised $15.3 million last month, surpassing the $14.8 million reported by Restore Our Future.
Movie director Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc., each gave $1 million to Priorities, as did lawyer David Boies, who represented then-Vice President Al Gore in the U.S. Supreme Court case that awarded the 2000 presidential election to Republican candidate George W. Bush. Katzenberg gave $2 million last year when the super-PAC was getting started.
Media executive Fred Eychaner, a top donor to Democratic candidates and causes, gave $2 million to the pro-Obama group in September after earlier donating $1 million to it. James Simons, chairman of Renaissance Technologies LLC, an East Setauket, New York-based investment firm, contributed $1.5 million to Priorities, bringing his total donations to it to $3.5 million.
American Crossroads, the super-PAC that Karl Rove, the chief political adviser to President George W. Bush, helped found, reported raising $11.7 million last month and spending $27.9 million, including more than $14 million on anti-Obama advertising.
Harold Simmons, chairman of Dallas-based Contran Corp., donated $2.5 million, bringing his total contributions to American Crossroads to $13.5 million. Simmons last month also contributed $500,000 to Restore Our Future, bringing his total donations to that super-PAC to $1.3 million.
John Hess, chief executive officer of the New York-based Hess Corp., gave $100,000. Hess’s late father, Leon Hess, owned the New York Jets football team before it was purchased by Woody Johnson, Romney’s New York finance chairman.
Restore Our Future received $2 million last month from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who’s given $10 million to the pro-Romney group since the beginning of 2011 and millions more to other Republican super-PACs. Robert McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans football team, gave $1 million, as did Oxbow Carbon LLC, a Florida energy company founded by billionaire William Koch.