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Crossroads' $175 Million Strikeout

by Michelle Martinelli

Just because George W. Bush has been out of the White House for four years doesn't mean Karl Rove has stopped trying to influence who controls Washington.

Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads, took every advantage of limitless fundraising in the 2012 election cycle, while its affiliated 501(c)(4), Crossroads GPS, did the same without having to disclose its donors.

As a super PAC, American Crossroads was responsible for about $105 million of the total $631 million spent on independent expenditures by super PACs in the 2012 election cycle. It comes in second to Restore Our Future -- the super PAC that backed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- and is just ahead of Priorities USA Action, which supported President Barack Obama, among the top spending super PACs.

Crossroads GPS, the 501(c)(4) "social welfare" group, spent $70.8 million of its own.

But whether that money translated into wins is a different story.

In the presidential election, American Crossroads dropped $84.6 million opposing Obama and spent almost $5 million just in the last week, while Crossroads GPS reported spending $15.3 million of its own throughout the cycle. Although most of the two groups' funds were spent opposing Democratic candidates, they also threw in just more than $13 million supporting Romney.

Minus the millions spent against the president, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS were invested heavily in congressional elections, spending the most in Senate races. Including Obama and Romney, American Crossroads targeted 20 federal candidates, while Crossroads GPS focused on 27.

By our calculations, American Crossroads came out on the winning side in six out of 19 races, with one still too close to call -- that's about 30 percent. GPS did even worse, going with the candidate who would ultimately prevail in just six out of 26 contests, again with one still undecided, giving it a success rate of about 23 percent.

Of the top four congressional races the super PAC spent money on, every dollar went to attack the Democratic candidates. But all four of those Democrats came out victorious, including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the biggest target of the group's efforts. American Crossroads poured more than $4 million into that election in an attempt to help Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) unseat the senior senator, whose margin of victory was 55 percent to 42 percent.

Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads, took every advantage of limitless fundraising in the 2012 election cycle, while its affiliated 501(c)(4), Crossroads GPS, did the same without having to disclose its donors.The super PAC's next biggest investment was in the battle for a Montana Senate seat. The group spent $1.8 million dollars to sway voters against incumbent Sen. Jon Tester -- who ultimately defeated Republican candidate Denny Rehberg by about four percentage points. Crossroads GPS also played a role in outside spending there, shelling out $3.3 million opposing Tester.

In addition to the two returning incumbents, American Crossroads failed to stop Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) from winning Senate seats, despite spending $1.4 million and $1.3 million against them, respectively, while Crossroads GPS threw in $4.7 million opposing Baldwin. In the Wisconsin race, American Crossroads also spent $1.3 million favoring Baldwin's Republican opponent, Tommy Thompson.

Overall, Crossroads GPS, the shadow money group, targeted 12 Senate candidates and 13 vying for the House. Aside from the $15.3 million spent against Obama, the next largest amount spent was $10.6 million against Democrat Tim Kaine, who defeated George Allen, 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent.

Although Crossroads GPS spent most of its money opposing Democratic candidates -- including winning Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) -- it shelled out $287,000 favoring two Republican Senate candidates: Rick Berg in North Dakota and Heather Wilson in New Mexico, who were both defeated.

It wasn't all a waste for Rove and his large-dollar donors. In the Nebraska Senate race, American Crossroads served up $992,000 opposing Democratic candidate Bob Kerrey, part of the overall $9 million in outside spending in that contest. GOP Senator-elect Deb Fischer will take over the Senate seat.

And Crossroads GPS was on the winning side in the Nevada Senate race after spending $6.7 million against Democrat Shelley Berkley, who lost by 1.2 percentage points to Republican incumbent Dean Heller. American Crossroads pitched in on that race as well, with $347,000.

Outside spending made up for the difference in fundraising in New York's 27th Congressional District race between Republican Chris Collins and Rep. Kathleen Hochul, who lost her bid for re-election with the help of Crossroads' $313,000 opposing her. The super PAC spent more than $688,000 overall on the New York race.

Rove was in denial on Tuesday night. But while this election cycle has shattered spending records and flooded the air waves with attack ads, it has also provided plenty of evidence that money doesn't dictate the result of every race.