The numbers on campaign spending look simple on the surface—while Mitt Romney raised a lot more money than President Obama, the president spent twice as much in June on commercials and campaign expenditures. That would make it seem as if Romney is in a far better position than the president heading into the final stretch of the campaign. But when it comes to the complex world of campaign financing, looks can be deceiving.
That’s because campaigns are restricted by when they can spend money raised, based on when the money came into the campaigns. Money raised for the election can’t be spent until after the parties hold their nominating conventions in August. Right now the campaigns have to rely on money that was raised during the primary, which Romney has much less of than the president.
At the end of June, Obama had about $72 million in primary cash while Romney had just $20 million in primary money. Making matters worse for Romney was the fact that many of his donations came from big money donors who already gave their maximum donation for the primary when he was still fighting off Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. So these donors can only contribute funds now to be used during the general election after Romney is the official party nominee.
Obama and the Democratic National Commitee spent $70.8 million in June, including about $38 million on television advertising—much of it for commercials attacking Romney for his tenure running Bain Capital private equity firm. Obama’s attacks have been so persistent—and apparently successful, based on poll numbers—that the Romney campaign has begun to complain about them, calling them unfair.
Romney and the Republican National Committee spent $38.8 million in June, including $11 million on television advertising.
But while Romney is somewhat hamstrung by his lack of primary cash, what he does have is a major advantage over the president in money being spent by the super PACs, which don’t have any of the annoying campaign restrictions.
American Crossroads, the leading Republican super PAC, this week announced a new $9 million campaign against Mr. Obama that criticizes the president for what the group says are unfair attacks on Mr. Romney. Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Mr. Romney, spent about $15 million between April and June, including $7.6 million in June, a month when it raised $20 million.
Donations to Restore Our Future included $10 million from the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, $1 million from the real estate developer Harlan Crow, and $2 million from the Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, according to commission reports.
In addition, tax-exempt “issue groups” that do not report their donors have spent millions more against Mr. Obama.