Senior White House officials have cranked up their attacks on corporate spending in the midterm congressional elections, after fresh data showed Republicans gaining traction in the race to secure campaign funds.
In separate interviews on Sunday, David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and Robert Gibbs, press secretary, decried the influx of direct political contributions from business, which were made possible by a landmark Supreme Court ruling this year, as a potential threat to US democracy.
“Obviously this gives a huge advantage to Republicans, but this isn’t just a threat to the Democratic party....If someone can walk into a congressional office and say, ‘If you don’t vote my way, the insurance industry or Wall Street...If you don’t vote our way, we’re going to give Karl Rove [the conservative George W.Bush adviser] $10m and we’re going to blow you away in the next election’, what kind of impact is that going to have on our country?” said Mr Axelrod on CNN’s State of the Union.
Mr Gibbs, on NBC’s Meet the Press, urged the US Chamber of Commerce, a target of administration attacks on campaign finance, to “open up the books” and “show the American people” where the money was from.
Their comments followed data from the Federal Election Commission showing that in the third quarter, Republicans raised more money than their Democratic opponents in a number of key races, particularly in the Senate.
Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed candidate trying to unseat Harry Reid as Senate majority leader in Nevada, raised $14.3m in the third quarter, compared with the $2.8m for Mr Reid.
In Illinois, Mark Kirk, the Republican Senate candidate, outspent Alexi Giannoulias, and in Washington, incumbent Democratic senator Patty Murray brought in less money than her Republican challenger Dino Rossi.
In other contests, Democrats raised more cash, including in California, where Barbara Boxer outraised Carly Fiorina.
With little more than two weeks before the elections , Republicans are expected to gain control of the House of Representatives but not the Senate.
Mr Obama has ramped up his campaigning and fundraising efforts for Democratic candidates. On Saturday, he was in Massachusetts and on Sunday he was travelling to Ohio, accompanied by Michelle Obama, the first lady for a rare joint campaign event.
Mr Axelrod said the top priority for the Obama administration in 2011 would be to “generate jobs and growth” and to “focus on the fiscal situation”.