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Independent political groups favoring President George W. Bush or opposing Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts have reported raising more than $26 million since June, narrowing the gap between them and other groups supporting Kerry, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

Democratic-supporting groups have held an overwhelming advantage during the current election cycle – previous analyses by the Center have shown left-leaning organizations out-raising their GOP counterparts by as much as 9-to-1 – but the gap is decreasing. Republican-backing committees involved in federal races now account for one of every four dollars raised, about $42 million.

Reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission by two groups, Progress for America Voter Fund and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, account for the $26 million since July. Such groups, known as “527 committees” after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that defines their structure, have raised more than $150 million to influence the presidential campaign and House and Senate races this year. Tens of millions more have gone to state-oriented 527 groups.

Progress for America Voter Fund, which formed earlier this year and has been airing pro-Bush advertisements in competitive states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, has raised $24.7 million since June, according to FEC reports. That includes $5 million each from San Diego Chargers football team owner Alex Spanos and Ameriquest Capital co-chairman Dawn Arnall, $2.5 million from Texas oilman and business magnate T. Boone Pickens and $2 million each from Amway Corp. executives Richard DeVos and Jay VanAndel of Michigan.

Since June, the two organizations have spent more than $4.1 million on television and radio advertisements, meaning that they potentially have millions more to spend in the final weeks of the election. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has criticized Kerry’s Vietnam service and statements he made against the war, said on Sep. 10 that it had raised a total of $6.7 million, much more than the $1.9 million it reported to the FEC on Sept. 9.

Fundraising and spending figures through Sept. 30 for both organizations, along with a host of Democratic-leaning 527 groups, will be filed with the Internal Revenue Service by Oct. 15.

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