If the trend on television continues and extends across other types of independent group spending, it would be a reversal from the past. In recent elections, it was Democrats who used so-called soft money vehicles, which are able to accept unrestricted donations, to a much greater degree.
In 2006, for example, the last midterm election, Democratic-leaning 527 groups, named for the part of the tax code they fall under, outspent Republican-leaning ones in federal races $121 million to $65 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“The groups that perfected this were on the Democratic side,” said Steven Law, president and chief executive of American Crossroads, a Republican-oriented advocacy group, and its sister organization, Crossroads GPS. Crossroads GPS has been the biggest third-party player on television by far since early August.
In Senate races, Republican-leaning interest groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones on television $10.9 million to $1.3 million, from Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that tracks political advertising.
In the House, Republican-leaning groups outspent Democratic-leaning ones, $3.1 million to $1.5 million.
Crossroads GPS is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, meaning it legally cannot devote more than half of its activities to politics, but it also means that it does not have to disclose its donors.
American Crossroads, on the other hand, recently filed paperwork to become an independent-expenditure political action committee, a new classification for third-party groups made possible by a pair of recent advisory opinions by the F.E.C. after the Citizens United decision. Such groups can accept donations of unlimited size but are required to regularly disclose their donors.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, American Crossroads spent only $437,000 on television in August and early September, much less than its sister-organization. Donations revealed in campaign finance filings by American Crossroads, however, offer a glimpse of the kinds of hefty contributions its leaders have been soliciting. There are the $1 million contributions linked to Mr. Simmons; and another $1 million donation came from a trust controlled by Jerry Perenchio, a former chairman of Univision and another major contributor to Republican causes.
Amid the launch of a new campaign to encourage greater scrutiny of the right-wing "American Crossroads" groups known to many as the "shadow RNC," an activist organization declared that it would give $100,000 to any person who comes forward with "information leading to the arrest and conviction of Karl Rove."
The campaign is being conducted by American Crossroads Watch, an offshoot of Velvet Revolution, which promotes issues key to many progressives activists and represents the political will of dozens of organizations and unions nation-wide.
Their newly launched Web site declares:
Karl Rove created American Crossroads to continue his 40-year history of unfairly manipulating elections on behalf of oligarchs. He joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a cabal of corporate barons and other CEOs that want Big Business to control our elections and our government.