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Barack Obama, John McCain say they hate meddlers ... but both benefit from them

September 6, 2008 |  6:20 am

Barack Obama and John McCain say they disdain independent campaigns being waged for and against them. But now that the conventions are over and the general election is in full swing, both presidential candidates are benefiting from millions being spent by groups beyond their control.

Outside groups have spent $11.7 million boosting Obama's candidacy between June, when he locked up the Democratic nomination, and Sept. 4. A relative pittance, $916,000, has been spent on McCain’s behalf, Federal Election Commission filings show.

But McCain and his new running mate Sarah Palin are the beneficiaries of money being spent against Obama. Groups have spent $10.3 million to undermine Obama, compared to $696,195 to criticize McCain.

By far the biggest player so far is the Service Employees International Union, which represents tens of thousands of workers in and out of government. SEIU and its 1199 local in New York City have spent $8.1 million on Obama’s behalf, plus another $108,000 to oppose McCain.

Other trying to undermine McCain include the Sierra Club (which has spent $177,000 on that effort) and Planned Parenthood (it's spending so far -- $102,000).

The Republican National Committee is leading the charge against Obama, spending $5.75 million on polling and other efforts to oppose his election.

Using money from Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, the conservative American Issues Project has spent $2.88 million airing ads blasting Obama over his ties to former anti-Vietnam war terrorist William Ayers.

The National Rifle Assn. has spent $163,000 to oppose Obama (who had some choice words to say about the group Friday in Pennsylvania) and his running mate, Joe Biden.

--Dan Morain