Karl Rove's Super PACs Outraise Democrats More Than 2-1

Karl Rove Speaking - H 2012
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Karl Rove Speaking - H 2012

Karl Rove brought in $51 million last year for his two Crossroads super PACs, while the Democrats collected only $19 million.

The Democrats’ four leading super PACs thus far have raised a relatively anemic total of slightly more than $19 million, according to federal election reports filed Tuesday.

The paltry totals rolled up by Priorities USA Action ($6.7 million), the American Bridge PAC($6.4 million), Majority PAC ($2.7 million), and House Majority PAC ($3 million) reflect a national problem for Democratic fundraisers that has become particularly acute in Hollywood.

For the first part of 2011, only Jeffrey Katzenberg, J.J. Abrams and Steve Bing made substantial donations to the Democratic super PACS. Donor disclosure forms for the second half of the year were expected to be posted on the Federal Election Commission's website late Tuesday.

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“People here are a little uneasy with the whole super PAC concept,” said one longtime political adviser with deep ties in the entertainment industry. “They think the whole process of raising money this way is disgusting and a little bit sleazy, so they're staying away. The problem for the party is to stay competitive” with far more aggressive and successful Republican fundraising efforts.

In fact, American Bridges will hold a fundraising event Feb. 7 at the home of Jaime and Michael Lynton, the chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The hope is that the event will jump start industry giving to the Democrats’ super PACs.

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The need for such an infusion is becoming more clear by the day. “President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate will face an unprecedented wave of (Republican) money this year and our groups stand ready to support Democrats in elections around the country, up and down the ballot,” the Dems’ PACs said in a joint statement Tuesday.

“2011 was a year for organizing and establishing our groups as the Republicans did irreparable harm to their candidates and their brand. In 2012, we will be the countervailing force to Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Mitt Romney’s billionaire friends who would love nothing more than to drive a right wing agenda that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.”

Rove, who engineered both George W. Bush’s presidential victories, has emerged as a master of the super PACs potential with two of them—American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which as a 501c4 need not disclose its donors identities. Together those two entities already have raised $51 million, according to the Associated Press. Rove has said he hopes to amass $240 million over the entire presidential election cycle.

During the past midterm elections, Rove’s PAC’s spent and estimated $43 million in support of GOP candidates. To gauge the impact of that figure, consider that the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates that all independent expenditures in that election cycle totaled just $300 million.

Rove’s fundraising reach is likely to increase, since he recently signed up former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, a legendary GOP money raiser, who as chairman of the Republican Governors Assn. in 2009 and 2010 amassed an eye-popping $115 million in contributions.