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Money From GOP Outside Groups Sparse in House Battles

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Outside groups are prohibited from coordinating with the party campaign committees, but they do spend their money based on the moves of the NRCC, led by Rep. Pete Sessions (above), and the DCCC, led by Rep. Steve Israel.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are quietly frustrated by the lack of outside group spending in House races, with less than a month to go before Election Day.

GOP-aligned super PACs have dominated the spending wars in the presidential and Senate races. They view the real political battle as the fight for the White House and the Senate majority, assuming Republicans have a lock on their 25-seat House majority.

Insiders in both parties and nonpartisan analysts believe the House is still not in play a month out, but the spending discrepancy could mean the difference in at least a handful of races.

“It does concern me that we’re going to be outspent in some places where maybe we shouldn’t be,” said a Republican consultant involved in House races. “There are places where we should be getting help, and we’re not.”

Few party operatives would speak publicly for this story for fear of angering the outside groups who could, at any point, reverse course and spend big. But the numbers tell the tale.

Karl Rove, a top adviser to the juggernaut GOP-aligned American Crossroads, reportedly told top donors in late August that the group planned to spend $32 million on House races. So far, the group, or its sister organization Crossroads GPS, has spent heavily in some special elections. But Crossroads GPS appears to have aired commercials in only two House races for the general election in the past six months, with combined buys totaling around a half-million dollars.

While Crossroads has reserved millions across the country in television time for presidential and Senate races, House operatives do not see any ad time from the group in their targeted races. 

A spokesman said the groups have together spent $1.5 million on House races since Jan. 1, 2012, and there is big spending yet to come. “Crossroads is looking to spend tens of millions through a variety of platforms — TV ads, phone calls, direct mail, research, polling — to protect the majority in the U.S. House and promote a conservative agenda,” spokesman Nate Hodson said in a statement. He noted that Rove isn’t a spokesman for the group.

Of course, what American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spend may not represent their full House commitment, as transfers to other organizations could be used to help boost House Republicans.

American Action Network and Congressional Leadership Fund, two outside groups run by former House GOP aides, have spent significantly more. Spokesman Dan Conston said the groups have spent $2.8 million on television out of their $7.6 million in reservations already budgeted.

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