Outside spending shapes 2012 election
Total spent: $468,532,608
Outside groups are having a profound impact on the 2012 presidential race, pouring tens of millions of dollars into campaign ads that have put both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney on the defensive. The totality of their influence is hard to calculate: while super PACs must report their spending to the Federal Election Commission, tax-exempt advocacy groups only have to report the money they spend on certain kinds of ads. Here’s a look at how much outside groups have reported spending since Romney secured the GOP nomination in April, and a sampling of the ads they have run.
Last updated: Nov. 20, 2012 | 10:59 a.m.
Spending by week
Select a week below to view spending by outside organizations, and sample advertisements.
|Week||← Oppose $77.8 million||Support → $19.9 million|
April 30 - May 6
May 28 - June 3
June 25 - July 1
July 30 - Aug. 5
Aug. 27 - Sept. 2
Oct. 29 - Nov. 4
Week of April 2-8
President Obama is given a pass from conservative super PACs this week as the GOP prepares to shift its attention from selecting a candidate to winning the general election.
Mitt Romney praises Paul Ryan's budget plan, which the ad claims would cut Medicare and Pell Grants.
Week of April 9-15
Mitt Romney is accused of flipping his stance on healthcare reform, and a super PAC that supported Herman Cain runs a bizarre ad opposing big government.
Happy Anniversary, Mitt
As Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney endorses a statewide health insurance plan.
A girl, a farmer and a flock of angry chickens star in this ad by a super PAC loosely tied to former GOP candidate Herman Cain.
Week of April 16-22
Pro-Obama super PACs attack Romney as an out-of-touch corporate executive.
Romney's World View
Mitt Romney is hit for his low tax rate and for becoming wealthy off companies that went bankrupt.
Kittens Are Cute. 1% Fat Cats? Not So Much.
Mitt Romney would supposedly let wealthy "fat cats" pay lower taxes at the expense of hard-working Americans.
Week of April 23-29
Anti-Romney ads continue to portray Mitt Romney as an opponent of students and the middle class, while anti-Obama ads mock the president as a shallow celebrity.
You're on your own
Mitt Romney allegedly seeks to increase college tuition and slash student financial aid.
President Obama sings Al Green and drinks beer in this ad painting him as a cool but incompetent leader.
Week of April 30 - May 6
As Romney turns his attention to raising funds for the general election, conservative super PACs fire at Obama on the airwaves.
Under President Obama, cost of living is said to be going up while the national debt grows larger.
Why does President Obama take so much credit?
President Obama appears headline-seeking in this ad suggesting he took all the credit for killing Osama bin Laden.
Week of May 7-13
Female voters are the target audience in this week's ads. President Obama is chastised for supposedly looking down on housewives, and Mitt Romney for threatening Planned Parenthood.
Pouncing on a gaffe by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, this ad profiles Ann Romney, who raised five children.
Congratulations Mitt Romney!
A liberal group keys off of Romney's stance on abortion, saying he "threw women under the bus ... just to get the nomination."
Week of May 14-20
Spending on attack ads against Mitt Romney increases, centered on a push to frame Romney as an enemy of the American worker.
Heads or Tails
A mill worker accuses Mitt Romney of being money hungry and unscrupulous.
Clips of Barack Obama making promises in 2008 that allegedly have not been met.
Week of May 21-27
Super PAC spending is low this week, and new ads are directed against Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
Republicans vs. Romney's Record
Mitt Romney's former GOP opponents are shown criticizing him over his ties to Bain Capital.
Loris and Ampad
An Ampad worker claims Mitt Romney drove her out of a job during his tenure at Bain Capital.
Week of May 28 - June 3
Both candidates are criticized for handing out government money to poorly managed companies.
President Obama is said to have wasted taxpayer money on failed public equity projects, such as Solyndra.
Romney's Energy Loan Hypocrisy Continues
As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney allegedly gave millions to companies that later went bankrupt.
Week of June 4-10
More character attacks this week. Anti-Obama ads accuse the president of mudslinging to improve his reelection chances, while Mitt Romney opponents label the GOP contender a ruthless job killer.
Another factory worker claims Mitt Romney and Bain Capital stripped him of his livelihood.
President Obama is criticized for "cynical, negative campaigning" that is "nauseating to the American public."
Week of June 11-17
More ads attack Mitt Romney for his role at Bain Capital and fault President Obama for the economic situation.
Translation: No to 4 more years of excuses
President Obama is portrayed passing off blame rather than solving problems.
Mitt Romney appears to advocate shipping jobs overseas.
Week of June 18-24
An influx of spending against President Obama comes as anti-Romney super PACs pull back.
President Obama's comment, "the private sector is doing fine," is taken as a sign he is out of touch.
An Indiana worker describes how he and his co-workers were fired by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
Week of June 25 - July 1
President Obama is criticized for the healthcare overhaul, while liberal PACs continue to argue that Republican policies would benefit only the rich.
Youth voters are targeted in this ad claiming healthcare in Obama’s plan will cost more for the same coverage.
President Obama is defended against Republicans who blame him for the bad economy.
Week of July 2-8
Spending by outside groups drops off this week, but mudslinging by both sides does not.
Spanish-speaking voters react to clips of Mitt Romney opposing the DREAM Act and illegal immigration.
Obama allegedly breaks his word and increases taxes on struggling families.
Week of July 9-15
Ads against President Obama heat up, as conservative groups seek to convince voters Obama has had his four years and been unsuccessful.
Better or Worse
The Obama administration spent trillions to fix the economy, but this ad argues he made things worse.
A catchy song calls on Obama to "get out."
Week of July 16-22
Mitt Romney opponents go after the GOP hopeful for failing to release tax returns. Americans for Prosperity reminds voters of the Solyndra bankruptcy.
As a photo of Mitt Romney transforms into Richard Nixon, this ad not so subtly asks of Romney, "He's not a crook, right?"
Campaign Ad 2012
President Obama supposedly gave millions to the failed company Solyndra as a reward for supporting him in 2008.
Week of July 23-29
Conservative groups opposing the president's reelection far outpace what anti-Romney super PACs have been able to muster. Attack ads against Obama continue to frame him as naive about the state of the economy and middle class.
A quote by President Obama makes him appear an opponent of small-business owners.
President Obama fumbles over his words in an ad spoofing sports recap shows.
Week of July 30 - Aug. 5
A Super PAC advised by Karl Rove pins high unemployment on President Obama, and a comical spot by MoveOn.org features a talking horse.
President Obama's "failed stimulus policies" are said to have caused the nation's unemployment problem.
Mitt Romney's horse Rafalca comments on how the Romneys can afford to spend $77,000 a year on her upkeep.
Week of Aug. 6-12
Controversy surrounds an ad by Priorities USA Action that attempts to link Mitt Romney to the death of a factory worker's wife. Republicans take offense and call on President Obama to denounce the ad.
Mitt Romney's firm, Bain Capital, bears implied responsibility in the death of a man's wife.
This ad, a response to "Understands," claims President Obama has ties to the Super PAC that funded it.
Week of Aug. 13-19
Disagreements persist over which candidate would be better or worse for middle-class Americans.
Has President Obama Earned Your Vote?
People who voted for Barack Obama talk about how they have become disillusioned.
Supposedly, Raul Ryan's budget plan would allow Mitt Romney to pay 1% in taxes.
Week of Aug. 20-26
Organizations supporting Mitt Romney continue to hail the GOP hopeful as an economic white knight, while pro-Obama organizations attempt to steer the focus to other issues.
Back to the Back Alley
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan allegedly seek to force women to obtain dangerous, back-alley abortions.
Mitt Romney is praised as a job creator, in contrast with President Obama, who "added $5 trillion in debt."
Week of Aug. 27 - Sept. 2
Disillusionment is the common theme in this week's ads, as one-time supporters of each candidate lose faith over broken promises to fix the economy.
A student who can't find a job after college moves back home and tears down his Barack Obama poster.
A Massachusetts woman who supported Mitt Romney for governor says she later felt "duped."
Week of Sept. 3-9
In time for the Democratic National Convention, the GOP releases a new round of ads criticizing President Obama.
This ad questions President Obama's record on the economy.
Week of Sept. 10-16
In the post-convention ad war, both sides target battleground states.
Obama's Wall Street
This ad's focus is Wall Street's financial support of President Obama.
We The People
This ad claims Romney's tax and budget proposal would hurt the middle class.
Week of Sept. 17-23
This week Mother Jones released a video of Romney speaking at a fundraiser about the 47% of Americans who do not pay federal income tax. The video dominated the news cycle and was the focus of several advertisements.
Pro-Obama PAC Priorities USA Action uses Romney's remarks to go after him on the middle class.
This ad from a Pro-Romney PAC shoots back, attacking Obama's handling of the economic recovery.
Week of Sept. 24-30
President Obama maintains a narrow lead over Mitt Romney in the polls, but outside spending continues to favor Romney in this week's ad wars.
Quantum of Easing
This ad likens President Obama to James Bond, but the comparison is not as flattering as it sounds.
Mitt Romney appears dismissive of 47% of Americans in this radio ad.
Week of Oct. 1-7
The first presidential debate is over, but outside supporters of both candidates are still working to get their shots in.
I Left My Heart In Grand Cayman
Mitt Romney is criticized for storing money overseas and threatening to cut federal funds to PBS.
President Obama is accused of spreading lies about his opponent.
Week of Oct. 8-14
GOP supporters go after President Obama on foreign policy, while Democrats take shots at Mitt Romney's running mate in the week of the vice presidential debate.
Opponents suggest Barack Obama failed to stop the murders of four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
Paul Ryan's 'Legitimate Problem'
Paul Ryan is criticized for opposing abortion in cases of rape.
Spending against Obama
A total of 97 Super PACs and outside groups have spent $288,645,507 to oppose Obama since April 2, 2012. Restore Our Future, run by former Romney advisors, tops the list of negative spenders -- its $88.6 million is about 31% of the total opposition spending on Obama. Below is a full list of the groups opposing Obama, along with their total spending against him.
|1.||Restore Our Future||$88,572,359|
|3.||Americans for Prosperity||$33,542,058|
|4.||Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies||$15,344,487|
|5.||Americans for Job Security||$15,223,067|
|6.||American Future Fund||$6,805,287|
|7.||National Rifle Assn. of America Political Victory Fund||$5,844,024|
|8.||Ending Spending Action Fund||$5,172,814|
|9.||Republican Jewish Coalition||$4,571,446|
|10.||National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action||$3,164,059|
|11.||Americans for Responsible Leadership||$2,401,647|
|12.||America's Next Generation||$1,935,757|
|13.||Restore America's Voice PAC||$1,797,423|
|14.||Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund||$1,758,321|
|15.||Conservative Majority Fund||$1,678,348|
|16.||Republican Majority Campaign||$1,650,000|
|17.||Super PAC for America||$1,135,584|
|18.||Citizen Awareness Project Inc.||$993,917|
|19.||Republican Union PAC||$950,000|
|20.||The Government Integrity Fund Action Network||$931,750|
|21.||Veterans for a Strong America||$762,122|
|22.||Women Speak Out PAC||$756,893|
|23.||Liberty Action PAC||$687,665|
|25.||Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama||$632,867|
|26.||Susan B. Anthony List||$631,466|
|27.||Life and Liberty PAC||$550,000|
|28.||Faith & Freedom Coalition||$542,650|
|29.||National Right to Life Victory Fund||$514,273|
|30.||Freedomworks for America||$423,187|
|31.||American Principles SuperPAC||$364,586|
|32.||The 60 Plus Association||$321,389|
|33.||Citizens for Community Values Action||$274,366|
|34.||Let Freedom Ring Inc.||$218,485|
|36.||Citizens for a Working America PAC||$180,734|
|37.||The Catholic Association||$179,169|
|38.||Hispanic Leadership Fund||$165,408|
|39.||CatholicVote.org Candidate Fund||$161,915|
|40.||The National Republican Trust PAC||$154,976|
|41.||Independent Women's Voice||$154,900|
|42.||American Majority Action Inc.||$138,730|
|43.||Emergency Committee for Israel||$123,141|
|44.||Patriot Super PAC||$114,615|
|45.||Michigan Republican Party||$112,403|
|46.||TheTeaParty.net Leadership Fund||$110,363|
|48.||Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania||$101,435|
|49.||Fedup Political Action Committee AKA Fedup PAC||$101,106|
|50.||Black Republican PAC||$90,355|
|52.||Cain Connections PAC||$76,516|
|53.||Special Operations OPSEC Political Committee||$63,350|
|54.||Colorado Family Action||$59,375|
|55.||America vs Obama||$59,106|
|56.||Enterprise Freedom Action Committee||$58,066|
|57.||National Republican Victory Fund PAC||$49,700|
|58.||Government Is Not God||$41,356|
|59.||National Organization for Marriage||$38,700|
|60.||The Conservative Strikeforce||$38,634|
|61.||Patriot Voices PAC||$34,681|
|62.||Tea Party Victory Fund||$30,000|
|63.||Jewish Council for Education and Research||$22,000|
|64.||Rock the Red PAC||$21,800|
|65.||Citizens United Political Victory Fund||$20,400|
|66.||American Principles in Action||$20,188|
|67.||Freedom Born Fund||$20,000|
|68.||Montana Growth Foundation||$19,991|
|69.||Campaign for American Values PAC||$19,088|
|70.||Special Operations Speaks PAC - SOS PAC||$18,231|
|71.||MAF Freedom PAC - Move America Forward Freedom PAC - MAF PAC||$17,036|
|72.||Heritage Action for America||$15,446|
|73.||Faith Family Freedom Fund||$15,000|
|74.||Common Sense Issues||$14,970|
|75.||American Values Action||$14,762|
|76.||Wisconsin Family Action Inc.||$14,713|
|77.||Indiana Republican State Committee||$14,391|
|78.||American Political Action Committee||$13,807|
|79.||Republican Party of Texas||$13,282|
|80.||Our Country Deserves Better PAC - TeaPartyExpress.org||$12,500|
|81.||Middle Resolution Federal PAC Inc.||$11,515|
|82.||Public Advocate of the United States||$11,500|
|83.||Colorado Future Fund||$10,744|
|84.||Coalition of Americans for Political Equality||$10,500|
|85.||Club for Growth Action||$10,085|
|86.||Americans In Contact PAC||$9,506|
|87.||Physicians for a Responsible Government Inc.||$9,385|
|88.||Restoring America Inc.||$7,175|
|89.||Family Foundation Action||$5,269|
|90.||Winning Our Future||$5,000|
|91.||Campaign for Working Families||$4,522|
|93.||Women Warriors PAC||$1,082|
|94.||Lyndon Larouche Political Action Committee||$1,020|
|95.||CitizenLink (formerly Focus on the Family Action)||$980|
|96.||Public Interest Forum||$922|
|97.||LCV Victory Fund||$380|
Spending against Romney
A total of 46 Super PACs and outside groups have spent $87,188,919 to oppose Romney since April 2, 2012. Priorities USA Action, which was set up by two former White House aides, tops the list of negative spenders -- its $64.1 million is about 74% of the total opposition spending on Romney. Below is a full list of the groups opposing Romney, along with their total spending against him.
|1.||Priorities USA Action||$64,110,252|
|2.||Planned Parenthood Action Fund||$4,872,421|
|4.||Planned Parenthood Votes||$3,456,477|
|5.||People For the American Way||$1,646,676|
|6.||Service Employees International Union PEA - Federal||$1,369,993|
|8.||LCV Victory Fund||$1,095,960|
|9.||American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees P E O P L E||$1,000,321|
|10.||League of Conservation Voters, Inc.||$957,094|
|11.||NARAL Pro-Choice America||$930,576|
|14.||National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare PAC||$353,727|
|15.||Unite Here TIP State & Local Fund||$243,713|
|16.||American Bridge 21st Century||$201,100|
|17.||United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Working Families Advocacy Project||$108,477|
|18.||Truman National Security Project||$92,396|
|19.||International Association of Firefighters Interersted in Registration and Education PAC||$79,407|
|20.||Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates||$50,000|
|21.||Texans for America's Future||$49,371|
|23.||Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Action Fund||$38,645|
|24.||Communications Workers of America Working Voices||$36,499|
|25.||American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education||$32,918|
|26.||National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare||$31,846|
|27.||Laborers' International Union of North America||$29,503|
|29.||Vote Your Values PAC||$22,800|
|30.||SEIU District 1199 PCE||$15,075|
|31.||United Steelworkers Political Action Fund||$10,419|
|32.||Florida Watch Action||$9,167|
|34.||Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte||$5,387|
|35.||Jewish Council for Education and Research||$5,000|
|36.||Save Sensata Jobs||$5,000|
|37.||Committee to Protect the Political Rights of Minorities||$3,984|
|38.||Keep Conservatives United||$3,101|
|39.||Florida Freedom PAC||$2,500|
|40.||Human Rights Campaign Equality Votes||$2,000|
|41.||Courage Campaign Super PAC||$714|
|42.||National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action||$485|
|43.||Environment America Inc.||$104|
|44.||Human Rights Campaign||$50|
|45.||Campaign for Community Change||$15|
|46.||Fair Share Alliance||$14|