RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And with no primary opponent to worry about, President Obama's campaign had nearly a full year's head start for fundraising over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But as NPR's S.V. Date reports, the president's advantage is rapidly disappearing.
S.V. DATE, BYLINE: Just one month after the start of the general election campaign, Mr. Obama has seen his financial cushion sliced in half. An $80 million cash-on-hand lead at the end of April was down to $45 million at the end of May, according to new Federal Election Commission filings. Romney did out-raise Obama in May. It was the first time he'd done so.
But Romney and his supporting superPAC also spent about a third of what team Obama spent on television ads, yet did not get drowned out on the airwaves. That's because Crossroads GPS and two other so-called social welfare groups spent $16 million on ads in the swing states, hammering Obama.
Karl Rove, Crossroads' co-founder, told Fox News the group is not a political committee, a distinction that allows it to keep its donors' names secret under tax rules.
KARL ROVE: Well, it's a social welfare organization because it spends the vast preponderance of its money in furtherance of its social welfare goals.
ROBERT BAUER: It's a social welfare organization in his mind. That doesn't determine its status under the law.
DATE: That's Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer. He filed a complaint this week with the FEC, citing recent court rulings and asking that it declare Crossroads GPS to be a political committee. If that happens, it would eliminate an attractive feature for donors who want to influence the election, but do not want to alienate customers.
ROVE: Crossroads' IRS filings show it has raised $77 million. Nearly 90 percent of that came from donations of at least one million. It's not clear how many would continue to give if they believed their names would be public.
DATE: S.V. Date, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.