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GOP's 'super PACs' overtaking presidential campaign fundraising

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks in Boise, Idaho. Presidential campaigns and outside political groups began filing detailed financial reports Monday, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the identities of wealthy supporters who will help elect the next president and details on how tens of millions of campaign dollars have been spent. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks in Boise, Idaho. Presidential campaigns and outside political groups began filing detailed financial reports Monday, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the identities of wealthy supporters who will help elect the next president and details on how tens of millions of campaign dollars have been spent. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

WASHINGTON -- An unmistakable dynamic is playing out in the money game among Republican presidential candidates: New "super" political action committees are growing more powerful than the campaigns they support.

For two of the GOP front-runners, their supportive super PACs raised more money and have more cash left in the bank than the candidates' own campaigns. Helping their efforts are major financial gifts from wealthy business executives, whose contributions can be essential to the groups' continued operations.

The Mitt Romney-leaning Restore Our Future and Newt Gingrich-supportive Winning Our Future raised a combined $17 million last month and spent nearly $24 million during the period. That financial strength allowed the groups to splash the airwaves in key primary states with millions of dollars in TV ads.

The proliferation of new super PACs continues to underscore how the groups, which can raise and spend unlimited sums, are influencing the race. Their fundraising last month provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the identities of the rich supporters who will help elect the next president, along with details on how the millions of dollars they donated have been spent.

Restore Our Future, which had $16 million cash on hand, has been boosted by more than two dozen repeat donors. Winning Our Future, which had $2.4 million in the bank, is largely supported by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife.

Meanwhile, Romney raised $6.5 million last month and had $7.7 million left for his presidential bid, while Gingrich's presidential campaign raised $5.5 million during the period and had about $1.8 million in cash remaining.

The super PACs, as well as other groups supporting other candidates and the individual campaigns, were required to disclose their fundraising and the identities of their donors in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by midnight Monday. Those reports also provided a snapshot of fundraising for President Barack Obama's early campaign and for Republican candidates as they battled during important primary elections in January.

During the month, GOP candidates Gingrich and Rick Santorum had briefly surged ahead of Romney but trailed the former Massachusetts governor in fundraising. Since then, Santorum has climbed remarkably in polls while Gingrich's support has eroded just as stunningly after his disappointing showing in Florida's primary.

Restore Our Future has been a boon for Romney, who has benefited greatly from the group's TV ads attacking Gingrich in particular. Such ads were paid for thanks to the financial help of repeat donors, including Marriott International Chairman J.W. Marriott Jr., who has given the super PAC $750,000 to date.