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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic President Barack Obama's top campaign lawyer filed a complaint with the federal election regulator on Tuesday, demanding that the well-heeded and high-spending Republican advocacy group Crossroads GPS disclose its donors.
This is the latest Democratic effort to slow down Crossroads GPS, run by former aide to President George W. Bush Karl Rove, which plans to spend some $300 million alongside its sister "super" political action committee to help Republican candidates ahead of the November 6 election, largely through advertising.
Republican non-profit and "Super PAC" groups have been far outpaced their Democratic rivals in fundraising and spending, which expected to help presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney bridge the fundraising gap between his and Obama's election campaigns.
Crossroads GPS is organized under a specific U.S. tax law section that identifies it as a nonprofit social welfare organization, meant to educate the public and allowed to keep its donors private. The group also has a sister Super PAC American Crossroads, which discloses its donors monthly.
The Federal Election Commission, the elections oversight agency, is currently split along party lines and has repeatedly deadlocked on whether social welfare groups must disclose their donors if they engage in political activity.
"There has never been any doubt about its true purpose: to elect candidates of its choice to the presidency and Congress," Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer wrote in his complaint to the FEC, posted online by the New York Times on Tuesday alongside the letter to Crossroads GPS that accompanied it.
Obama's re-election is being helped by Democratic groups that enjoy a similar tandem relationship: sister organizations Priorities USA Action, the monthly reporting Super PAC; and Priorities USA, the non-disclosing nonprofit.
"Folks would do well to consider this a goofy sideshow until Obama sends the same letter to Priorities USA - the group modeled after Crossroads but which supports the president," Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said.
"In the end, Obama doesn't care about the campaign laws; he only cares about silencing conservative groups that are holding him accountable for his failed record."
Priorities USA Action has badly lagged Republican groups in the money game. The pro-Obama Super PAC had raised $6.1 million, while American Crossroads had raised $29.8 million, as of the end of April. These and other Super PACs are due to report their May fundraising on Wednesday.
FEC guidelines give the agency 120 days to act upon the complaint, putting the deadline less than a month before the election. No FEC action by then would mean the Obama campaign could file a more high-profile case in district court.
Additional reporting by Alexander Cohen; editing by Todd Eastham