Outside spending shapes 2012 election


    Opposing: $288,645,507
    Supporting: $25,188,030


    Opposing: $87,188,919
    Supporting: $55,457,629

    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 2-8
    April 9-15
    April 16-22
    April 23-29
    April 30 - May 6
    May 7-13
    May 14-20
    May 21-27
    May 28 - June 3
    June 4-10
    June 11-17
    June 18-24
    June 25 - July 1
    July 2-8
    July 9-15
    July 16-22
    July 23-29
    July 30 - Aug. 5
    Aug. 6-12
    Aug. 13-19
    Aug. 20-26
    Aug. 27 - Sept. 2
    Sept. 3-9
    Sept. 10-16
    Sept. 17-23
    Sept. 24-30
    Oct. 1-7
    Oct. 8-14
    Oct. 15-21
    Oct. 22-28
    Oct. 29 - Nov. 4
    Nov. 5-11

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Mitt Romney praises Paul Ryan's budget plan, which the ad claims would cut Medicare and Pell Grants.

    American Bridge 21st Century Foundation

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    Happy Anniversary, Mitt

    As Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney endorses a statewide health insurance plan.

    American Bridge 21st Century Foundation

    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.

    Cain Connections PAC

    Week of April 16-22

    Pro-Obama super PACs attack Romney as an out-of-touch corporate executive.

    Sample advertisements:
    Romney's World View

    Mitt Romney is hit for his low tax rate and for becoming wealthy off companies that went bankrupt.

    Priorities USA Action
    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    You're on your own

    Mitt Romney allegedly seeks to increase college tuition and slash student financial aid.

    American Bridge 21st Century Foundation

    President Obama sings Al Green and drinks beer in this ad painting him as a cool but incompetent leader.

    American Crossroads

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Under President Obama, cost of living is said to be going up while the national debt grows larger.

    American Crossroads
    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.

    Veterans For A Strong America

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    Mother's Day

    Pouncing on a gaffe by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, this ad profiles Ann Romney, who raised five children.

    Restore Our Future
    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    Heads or Tails

    A mill worker accuses Mitt Romney of being money hungry and unscrupulous.

    Priorities USA Action
    Obama's Promise

    Clips of Barack Obama making promises in 2008 that allegedly have not been met.

    American Crossroads

    Week of May 21-27

    Super PAC spending is low this week, and new ads are directed against Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.

    Sample advertisements:
    Republicans vs. Romney's Record

    Mitt Romney's former GOP opponents are shown criticizing him over his ties to Bain Capital.

    Priorities USA Action
    Loris and Ampad

    An Ampad worker claims Mitt Romney drove her out of a job during his tenure at Bain Capital.

    Priorities USA Action

    Week of May 28 - June 3

    Both candidates are criticized for handing out government money to poorly managed companies.

    Sample advertisements:
    Public Equity

    President Obama is said to have wasted taxpayer money on failed public equity projects, such as Solyndra.

    American Crossroads
    Romney's Energy Loan Hypocrisy Continues

    As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney allegedly gave millions to companies that later went bankrupt.

    American Bridge 21st Century Foundation

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Another factory worker claims Mitt Romney and Bain Capital stripped him of his livelihood.

    Priorities USA Action

    President Obama is criticized for "cynical, negative campaigning" that is "nauseating to the American public."

    American Crossroads

    Week of June 11-17

    More ads attack Mitt Romney for his role at Bain Capital and fault President Obama for the economic situation.

    Sample advertisements:
    Translation: No to 4 more years of excuses

    President Obama is portrayed passing off blame rather than solving problems.

    American Crossroads

    Mitt Romney appears to advocate shipping jobs overseas.

    Priorities USA Action

    Week of June 18-24

    An influx of spending against President Obama comes as anti-Romney super PACs pull back.

    Sample advertisements:
    Doing Fine

    President Obama's comment, "the private sector is doing fine," is taken as a sign he is out of touch.

    Americans for Prosperity

    An Indiana worker describes how he and his co-workers were fired by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.

    Priorities USA Action

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Youth voters are targeted in this ad claiming healthcare in Obama’s plan will cost more for the same coverage.

    Crossroads Generation

    President Obama is defended against Republicans who blame him for the bad economy.

    Priorities USA Action

    Week of July 2-8

    Spending by outside groups drops off this week, but mudslinging by both sides does not.

    Sample advertisements:

    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.

    American Crossroads

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    Better or Worse

    The Obama administration spent trillions to fix the economy, but this ad argues he made things worse.

    American Future Fund
    Get Out

    A catchy song calls on Obama to "get out."

    Patriot Super PAC

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    Tricky Mitt

    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.

    Americans for Prosperity

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    A quote by President Obama makes him appear an opponent of small-business owners.

    American Crossroads

    President Obama fumbles over his words in an ad spoofing sports recap shows.

    American Crossroads

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    President Obama's "failed stimulus policies" are said to have caused the nation's unemployment problem.

    American Crossroads
    Rafalca Romney

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Mitt Romney's firm, Bain Capital, bears implied responsibility in the death of a man's wife.

    Priorities USA Action

    This ad, a response to "Understands," claims President Obama has ties to the Super PAC that funded it.

    Priorities USA Action

    Week of Aug. 13-19

    Disagreements persist over which candidate would be better or worse for middle-class Americans.

    Sample advertisements:
    Has President Obama Earned Your Vote?

    People who voted for Barack Obama talk about how they have become disillusioned.

    Americans for Prosperity

    Supposedly, Raul Ryan's budget plan would allow Mitt Romney to pay 1% in taxes.

    Priorities USA Action

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    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."

    Restore Our Future

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    The Poster

    A student who can't find a job after college moves back home and tears down his Barack Obama poster.

    Crossroads Generation

    A Massachusetts woman who supported Mitt Romney for governor says she later felt "duped."

    Priorities USA Action

    Week of Sept. 3-9

    In time for the Democratic National Convention, the GOP releases a new round of ads criticizing President Obama.

    Sample advertisements:

    This ad questions President Obama's record on the economy.

    American Crossroads

    Week of Sept. 10-16

    In the post-convention ad war, both sides target battleground states.

    Sample advertisements:
    Obama's Wall Street

    This ad's focus is Wall Street's financial support of President Obama.

    American Future Fund
    We The People

    This ad claims Romney's tax and budget proposal would hurt the middle class.

    Priorities USA Action

    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Pro-Obama PAC Priorities USA Action uses Romney's remarks to go after him on the middle class.

    Priorities USA Action

    This ad from a Pro-Romney PAC shoots back, attacking Obama's handling of the economic recovery.

    Restore Our Future

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    Quantum of Easing

    This ad likens President Obama to James Bond, but the comparison is not as flattering as it sounds.

    American Crossroads

    Mitt Romney appears dismissive of 47% of Americans in this radio ad.

    Priorities USA Action

    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.

    Sample advertisements:
    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.

    Sample advertisements:

    Opponents suggest Barack Obama failed to stop the murders of four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.

    American Crossroads
    Paul Ryan's 'Legitimate Problem'

    Paul Ryan is criticized for opposing abortion in cases of rape.

    American Bridge 21st Century Foundation

    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.

    # PAC Spending More
    1. Restore Our Future $88,572,359
    2. American Crossroads $84,574,551
    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
    24. SecureAmericaNow.org $670,660
    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
    35. Crossroads Generation $209,111
    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
    47. American Commitment $106,626
    48. Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania $101,435
    49. Fedup Political Action Committee AKA Fedup PAC $101,106
    50. Black Republican PAC $90,355
    51. Wagner $85,020
    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
    92. Workers' Voice $1,321
    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.

    # PAC Spending More
    1. Priorities USA Action $64,110,252
    2. Planned Parenthood Action Fund $4,872,421
    3. SEIU COPE $3,671,372
    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
    7. Workers' Voice $1,290,962
    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
    12. MoveOn.Org $859,695
    13. Working America $419,003
    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
    22. DGA Action $40,000
    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
    28. PACPlus $28,700
    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
    33. Women Vote! $6,000
    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

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