WASHINGTON - Major donors supportive of President 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 are expected to bring in more than $1 billion this election, said an Associated Press review of campaign spending data and projections.
The calculus raises the specter that Obama, who broke fundraising records four years ago by hauling in $750 million, may be the first 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 PACs 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.
Obama's campaign reported $109.7 million in the bank at the end of May. But it collected $39.1 million while spending $44.5 million. The Democratic Party had $29.6 million cash on hand, raising about $20 million and spending $14.6 million. A super PAC working in Obama's favor, Priorities USA Action, reported raising $4 million last month.
Even with outside financial strength, Romney is taking few chances at being outspent by his opponent. His campaign is hosting a retreat in Utah this weekend for the biggest donors and fundraisers. Such GOP heavyweights as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are expected to attend to so-called Republicanpalooza. The highlight for the 700 guests, who either contributed $50,000 or raised $250,000 for the campaign, will be unfettered access to Romney.
The New York Times contributed to this report.