Presidential campaigns and outside political groups began filing detailed financial reports Monday, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the identities of wealthy supporters who will help elect the next president and details on how tens of millions of campaign dollars have been spent.
The reports provide a snapshot of fundraising for President Barack Obama's early campaign and for Republican candidates as they battled during important primary elections in January.
During the month, GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum had briefly surged ahead of front-runner Mitt Romney but were behind the former Massachusetts governor in fundraising. Since then, Santorum has climbed remarkably in polls as support eroded just as stunningly for Gingrich following his disappointing showing in Florida.
The financial reports also describe contributions to and spending by super political action committees during that time. Groups like Restore Our Future, which supports Romney, and Winning Our Future, which supports Gingrich, have so far spent millions of dollars on television ads supporting their candidates or hammering their opponents. The reports were due to the Federal Election Commission by midnight.
The group supporting Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Endorse Liberty, reported roughly $2.4 million in contributions, including $1.7 from the billionaire founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel of San Francisco. Thiel, who runs a hedge fund, is a libertarian who has supported Republican causes and candidates and also has donated to California's marijuana legalization ballot measure.
The detailed accounting reports, which identify the wealthy contributors to super PACs, probably will rekindle criticism of those groups, which were made possible under a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case. The groups must legally remain independent from the candidates they support, but many super PACs are staffed with former campaign aides who have intimate knowledge of the campaigns' strategies.
Late Friday, the Supreme Court put on hold a Montana case that bore striking similarities, and two justices said it provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reconsider whether the millions of dollars that millionaires and billionaires have poured into the presidential election should be allowed to continue.
Also on Friday, President Barack Obama's campaign reported raising a combined $29.1 million in January among the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and other joint fundraising committees. The major super PAC backing Obama, Priorities USA Action, has yet to file its January report.
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