By Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A major Republican-linked fundraising group has amassed $25 million so far this year to finance its attacks on President Barack Obama and other Democrats in the 2012 elections.
American Crossroads, conceived by Republican guru Karl Rove, is a new breed of political committee that can raise unlimited cash, thanks in part to recent court decisions loosening federal campaign finance laws.
The group aims to spend $120 million to try to unseat Obama in the 2012 race and has already run ads including one mocking Obama with his quotes about a "recovery summer," set to fast-paced rock music.
The faltering economic recovery, highlighted by Friday's dismal report showing no new net jobs created and the jobless rate stuck at 9.1 percent, is dogging Obama's popularity and re-election chances.
Paul Ryan, associate legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, noted that total outside spending for 2008 was $300 million and predicted an explosion in such spending because of the recent court actions.
"If they follow through on their intention to raise $120 million, that gives us a preview to what undoubtedly will be a staggering amount of spending by outside groups from corporations, unions, and other sources in 2012," Ryan said.
Among donors listed on an FEC report filed late on Thursday, Ken Griffin, chief executive of hedge fund Citadel Investments, gave $300,000. Griffin also gave money to American Crossroads in 2010.
Griffin "bundled" at least $50,000 in funds for both Obama and Republican John McCain in 2008.
Based in Obama's hometown of Chicago, Griffin was one of several high-profile hedge fund managers who helped Obama in 2008.
Several of those investors have publicly soured on Obama, mainly because of his stance on tax policy and what they say is his unfair characterization of Wall Street as populated by "fat cats."
Hedge fund managers often pay the 15 percent capital gains tax rate -- much lower than the 35 percent ordinary tax rate -- and Obama backed a failed effort in Congress to raise the rate paid by the managers when they invest client's cash.
Griffin has made campaign donations mostly to Republicans recently, but he also has sent checks to some Democrats over the years, according to FEC reports.
Griffin has not decided which Republican he likes, but will definitely be backing a Republican in the 2012 race, an individual close to Griffin in Chicago said.
Ken Langone, an investment banker who took Ross Perot's Electronic Data Systems public and was an early investor in Home Depot, gave $25,000 to American Crossroads, according to the FEC filing.
American Crossroads was required to file with the FEC because of spending the group did in a Nevada special election.
American Crossroads is divided into two units - one is required to report donors and revenue to the Federal Election Commission, while the other can raise funds from donors who do not want to reveal their contributions.
Outside groups aligned with Democrats have also been raking in donations as the 2012 race heats up.
Priorities USA, a Democratic-leaning group run by former aides to Obama, has begun to run television ads in politically vital states like Iowa and Florida to help re-elect Obama.
Democrats were outgunned by tens of millions of dollars by Republican-backed independent groups in congressional elections last year, when Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and gained seats in the Senate.
(Additional reporting by Eric Johnson; Editing by Vicki Allen)