money.jpgWe’ve said this before, but the money keeps cascading in.

U.S. private equity firms, which includes venture capital firms that invest in start-ups, continue to raise more money than ever before.

They’ve raised $172.2 billion in 253 funds so far this year through the close of the third quarter of 2006 — an increase of about 72 percent in capital from this point last year, according to Dow Jones.

The total this year has already exceeded the $162.5 billion raised in all of 2005. The year’s total is expected to easily exceed 2000, when a record $177.9 billion was raised. Private equity is a term that includes buyout and corporate finance funds, venture capital, mezzanine funds and funds-of-funds.

We should note that venture capital firms themselves are no where near raising the record levels they hit in 2000. But they are raising more than last year: They raised $21.8 billion so far in 2006, about 18 percent more than was raised at this point last year, the report said.