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Reports show an election year awash in money

Saturday - 2/1/2014, 3:50am  ET

PHILIP ELLIOTT
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An early but incomplete snapshot of 2013's political fundraising came into focus Friday, suggesting this election year will be flooded with money.

The political parties' federal campaign committees spent $300 million -- in a year when just two states had special Senate elections and six House districts had unplanned races. The parties raised $371 million for federal races and another $78.3 million for governors.

All told, the major committees collected about $450 million in 2013.

That sum leaves out individual candidates' hauls and doesn't count many of the outside advocacy groups, which didn't share Friday's deadline to report to the Federal Election Commission.

Friday's top-line numbers put Democrats slightly ahead of Republicans, but not by such a margin that would decide the fate of candidates in 2014. Taken with the Democratic National Committee's almost $16 million debt and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's $3.75 million in red ink, they are roughly even.

The DNC started 2013 with $20 million in debt. The DSCC started its year with $15.7 million in debt.

Heading into this year, the reports suggest heavy spending will be the norm. The Republican National Committee alone spent $76 million last year, largely on rebuilding its campaign technology and hiring operatives to work alongside state parties.

"The reason we did pretty well raising money in 2013 is that we were selling a plan to the people that were going to invest in the RNC," party chairman Reince Priebus said earlier this month. "The plan was putting boots on the ground early, getting into Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities, solving a primary and debate problem that we've all talked about a lot, and fixing a pretty big digital and data problem."

The Republican National Committee said it raised almost $81 million last year and has $9 million in hand to keep working on a technology gap that, in part, cost it the last two presidential races. The RNC said it's debt-free.

The RNC outraised the Democratic National Committee, which took in -- and spent -- about $65 million. The DNC ended the year carrying $15.6 million in debt.

The Democrats' committee to elect members to the House raised almost $76 million last year to fund its effort to retake the majority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported it has $29.3 million in the bank.

The National Republican Congressional Committee trailed, raising almost $61 million and banking $21 million for this year's elections.

The GOP enjoys a 32-seat advantage in the House, 232 Republicans to 200 Democrats. There are three open seats.

On the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Democrats' campaign committee raised $52.6 million to defend their majority. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also reported it had banked $12 million, but it had $3.75 million in debt heading into the election year.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $36.6 million last year and had $8 million banked. It had no debt, meaning it had roughly the same amount of cash to send to its candidates as its Democratic rival.

Thirty-five Senate seats are up this year, and Democrats will be defending 21 of them. The balance of power in the Senate is 45 Republicans, 53 Democrats and two independents who generally vote with the Democrats. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to wrest the Senate from Democrats' control.

The Republican Governors Association said it raised $50.3 million last year and has roughly the same amount in the bank. Its rival, the Democratic Governors Association, said it raised $28 million last year but did not release its bank balance.

Voters picked governors in just two states in 2013. Republicans won in New Jersey and Democrats prevailed in Virginia.

There are 36 gubernatorial races in 2014. Of those, Republicans control the governor's office in 22 states.

Individual contenders also face the deadline.

Senators and Senate candidates must file paper reports to the Senate, but some choose to file electronically, too. There is usually a lag for paper filings before they make their way to the FEC.

House members and those looking to become representatives have to file their fundraising reports.

While the reports offer a hint at the number of television ads, phone calls, mail pieces and knocks on the door voters can expect, the figures don't fully capture political activity heading toward November. Some of the biggest spenders were not included in Friday's reports because, technically, they are not considered campaign operations. That means it will be months before a true assessment of political spending is possible.

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