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Campaign Finance Disclosures Mark A Turning Point

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We have a new look at the fundraising contest being waged by President Obama and apparent Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Their campaign committees filed monthly disclosures Friday night at the Federal Election Commission — as did superPACs that are active in the presidential contest.

Their reports show a turning point in the campaign as the president's re-election operation powers toward November and the Romney team revs up after the GOP primary contest.

In a speech aimed at rallying the party faithful in Phoenix on Friday, Mitt Romney used one of his favorite lines about President Obama.

"He is very clearly out of ideas and out of excuses," Romney said. "So it's our job in November to put him out of office."

That job is just beginning — because the Obama re-election operation is clearly not out of money.

In March, the Obama organization raised $53 million. That includes Obama For America, the Democratic National Committee and two joint fundraising committees. All told, they reported $135 million cash on hand.

Romney and the Republican National Committee raised about half as much: $26.3 million. Their combined cash on hand is a bit less than $43 million.

The month of March was expensive for Romney as he battled primary rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. He couldn't build up his reserves, and the Romney-RNC joint fundraising committee just got started this month.

"Obama is sailing along focused almost exclusively on November, so that's a great advantage for the Democratic camp," says Director Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money.

The Obama campaign maintains its strength in small donors, those who give $200 or less. Obama For America got more than 50 percent of its money that way. For the Romney committee, it was 13 percent.

That might become less significant; joint fundraising arrangements mean that a candidate's fundraising team — his bundlers — can solicit contributions of $5,000 for the candidate's committee, and another $70,800 for the party committees.

Krumholz says now is prime time for those bundlers to swing into action.

"This is a powerful asset for any presidential candidate, to be able to raise money far in excess of what individuals can give to the campaign, but also to empower the parties to act on behalf of the campaign," she says.

The Obama campaign says it has 534 bundlers, including 90 who are new this quarter. The Romney campaign doesn't disclose its bundlers.

And then there are the superPACs. The pro-Romney group Restore Our Future reported just $6.5 million on hand as of March 31. That put it almost on par with the under-performing pro-Obama superPAC, Priorities USA Action.

But that's misleading. Since last year, Restore Our Future has raised nearly $52 million overall. Most of that cash went into the primary race, but there's no limit to how much, or how often, superPAC donors can give.

One big superPAC reported a drop in fundraising. American Crossroads, the group cofounded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, raised just $1.2 million last month, but it has a partner committee, Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) advocacy group that keeps its donors secret. Together, the two groups announced unofficial, year-to-date numbers that indicate as much as $40 million being given to Crossroads GPS by undisclosed donors.

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

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