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Campaigns Release Fundraising Numbers, But Some Big Spenders Stay Mum

From the retired librarian in Kentucky who gave President Obama's campaign $19 to the Arkansas investment banker who gave the superPAC backing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a half-million dollars — it's all there at the Federal Election Commission website.

The presidential candidates and the superPACs supporting them turned over hundreds of thousands of lines of detail Wednesday about how they raised their money last month.

Yet in all of those megabytes of data, there is not even a mention of some of the biggest spenders last month: so-called social welfare organizations that are hammering Obama in the critical battleground states.

In May, while the Romney campaign and the Restore Our Future superPAC spent $7.5 million on TV ads, groups like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity spent more than twice that. And voters may never learn the source of even a single dollar behind them.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS, says liberal groups also run politically oriented ads, and that the IRS rules governing nonprofits abide by a decades-old Supreme Court ruling that protects the privacy of their donors.

"Frankly, there are a lot of folks that aren't happy with the way that the country has been managed over the last couple of years, and we are voicing our concerns as any private association of individuals or groups is able to do," Collegio says.

Critics of the new landscape say the groups are abusing the intent of the tax laws.

Kathy Kiely of the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes full disclosure in politics, says that transparency would give "average people who don't have big dollars at least some leverage, as voters, over the people who do."

At least for now, voters watching the campaign unfold in anonymously funded TV ads will have to judge their merits without knowing who is behind them.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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