Nearly 200 companies gave $8.6 million to super PACs in June, far more than in any other month this year, new records showed.
The total includes many repeat givers, who have given a total of $18 million over the entire election cycle. Almost the entire June amount came from 40 companies giving $50,000 or more.
They included the rare publicly traded company, with the maker of Miracle-Gro fertilizer giving $200,000 to Restore Our Future, the pro-Mitt Romney PAC run by former campaign aides. Publicly traded companies have almost always shied away from political advocacy for fear of alienating customers and shareholders.
But for many of the firms exercising the free-speech rights affirmed under the Citizens United ruling, the donations seemed more an effort at hiding the individuals behind them than well-known corporations performing civic speech.
Five different companies sharing an address in the Villages, Fla., for example, including SCD Investments and GTMJ Investment Group, gave $350,000 to Restore Our Future in June. The address is linked to H. Gary and Renee Morse, billionaire developers.
Three different limited-liability companies operating out of the same post office box in Dayton, Ohio, combined gave $1 million to American Crossroads, a Republican advocacy group with former Bush adviser Karl Rove on its board. The month prior, those same three companies combined gave $1 million to Restore Our Future. Corporate records indicate the companies are connected to Reynolds and Reynolds, a software company, and chief executive officer Robert T. Brockman.
The totals also include transfers from nonprofit groups, which don’t disclose donors, to affiliated super PACs, though that was less common in June.
On June 14, for example, the Service Employees International Union transferred $550,000 from its general fund to its super PAC. In January, the Cooperative of American Physicians transferred $1.2 million to its super PAC.
Super PACs, which stem from the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, can accept money from any source and spend it with few restrictions, except for a ban on coordinating directly with or giving to candidates.
The pro-Romney Restore Our Future group raised $20 million from 148 people last month — half of which came from former Newt Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson, $2 million from profligate giver and homebuilder Bob Perry, and $1 million from a corporation connected to William Koch.
Large donors also include Sam Zell, an investor and owner of the Chicago Tribune.
On the pro-Obama side, Priorities USA raised $6 million, including $1 million from actor Morgan Freeman; $2 million from Irwin M. Jacobs, a founder of Qualcomm; and another million from Fred Eychaner of Newsweb Corp. Despite opposition to the court rulings that created super PACs in 2010, Mr. Obama has dispatched top figures, including Cabinet members, to its fundraising events.
Other donors include George Krupp, CEO of the Berkshire Group, and Jon Stryker, a Democratic and pro-gay rights donor and architect.
Despite the fundraising totals, Priorities USA has gone decidedly on the offense versus Restore Our Future, a dramatic turn from the early months of the election, when Priorities issued barely a peep and raised little money while the pro-Romney groups hammered his opponents out of the Republican primaries.
Since April, Priorities has outspent Restore Our Future on advertising $14 million to $9 million.
Beyond a vehicle for advertising, though, Priorities has made itself into a research operation, spending a quarter-million of the $8 million it spent in June digging up ammunition for use against Mr. Romney, records show.
The pro-Romney group has the upper hand monetarily — Restore Our Future has $22 million in the bank, while Priorities has less than $3 million — and appears to have opted for a lie-in-wait strategy.