Rom­ney’s su­per PAC still out­rais­ing his ri­vals’

But San­to­rum, Gin­grich ahead in small donors

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY LUKE ROSIAK

Fifty wealthy per­sons and com­pa­nies gave at least $100,000 each to af­fect Amer­i­can pol­i­tics last month, over­whelm­ingly to Re­pub­li­can su­per PACS, mak­ing the at­tack-ad weapons far stronger than that of their Demo­cratic coun­ter­parts, new dis­clo­sures show.

But also in fi­nan­cial re­ports of pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and the PACS were signs of lim­its to the big money’s power. Though for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney and his su­per PAC en­joy an ad­van­tage over his ri­vals for the Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich both raised twice as much in con­tri­bu­tions smaller than $200.

And Mr. San­to­rum has re­ceived do­na­tions of $200 and up from more peo­ple than Mr. Rom­ney.

The new re­ports, cov­er­ing Fe­bru­ary, raised ques­tions about how much longer Mr. Gin­grich, who ended the month with more debt than cash and raised only $2.6 mil­lion, can stay in the race. His al­lied su­per PAC re­ceived $5 mil­lion from its chief bene­fac­tors, but it has since spent all but $1.4 mil­lion.

As the su­per PAC sup­port­ing Mr. Rom­ney re­ported a $6.4 mil­lion haul for the month — half from one donor — it seemed clear the fi­nance-in­dus­try money that has en­abled it to run $34 mil­lion in at­tack ads, $7 mil­lion this month, could also be a li­a­bil­ity.

The Apollo Group, owns sev­eral for­profit ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, gave $75,000, more than all but one other com­pany. Pres­i­dent Obama has made an ef­fort to re­quire for-profit col­leges to show that they pre­pare stu­dents for jobs be­fore hand­ing out gov­ern­ment loans.

Pay­day lenders, which loan money at in­ter­est rates crit­ics say bor­der on usury, were among the most com­mon donors. Most gave un­der their own names, but ex­ec­u­tives from one, Moneytree, gave in­stead through an opaquely named limited li­a­bil­ity com­pany.

And as can­di­dates jockey to po­si­tion them­selves as Washington out­siders, 13 lob­by­ists bun­dled $500,000 for Mr. Rom­ney, up from three the prior month.

As the large do­na­tions from wealthy peo­ple went to Mr. Rom­ney’s su­per PAC, the one work­ing to re-elect Mr. Obama had a dif­fer­ent prob­lem: It didn’t have any. In the first month since Mr. Obama en­listed Cab­i­net sec­re­taries to ap­pear as at­trac­tions at fundrais­ing events, Pri­or­i­ties USA fared poorly. Though su­per PACS have been widely con­demned by Democrats as cor­rupt­ing, Mr. Obama re­luc­tantly en­dorsed the group.

The su­per PAC re­ceived only seven con­tri­bu­tions higher than what could be given through tra­di­tional chan­nels, with half its haul in the form of a $1 mil­lion check from lib­eral talk-show host and co­me­dian Bill Maher. While scores of Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties gave the max­i­mum al­lowed $30,000 con­tri­bu­tion to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, which of­ten earned them au­di­ences with the pres­i­dent at pri­vate gath­er­ings, none was will­ing to give more to the su­per PAC. The United Auto Work­ers union gave $100,000.

Pri­or­i­ties USA is hop­ing to even­tu­ally com­pete with con­ser­va­tive su­per PACS Amer­i­can Cross­roads, which raised $3.4 mil­lion, and Free­dom­works, which raised $450,000 — one-third trans­ferred from an af­fil­i­ate, ef­fec­tively hid­ing the money’s source. The Washington Times re­ported Wed­nes­day that de­spite pre­fer­ring more con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates, Free­dom­works will be­gin en­cour­ag­ing Repub­li­cans to rally around Mr. Rom­ney as the likely GOP nom­i­nee.

Sen. Jim Demint, South Carolina Re­pub­li­can, trans­ferred $500,000 in cam­paign funds to the Club for Growth, a pi­o­neer­ing move in the new world of su­per PACS, in which a politi­cian who la­bored to raise money un­der con­tri­bu­tion caps gave it to an in­de­pen­dent group that can col­lect large sums more eas­ily. The Club for Growth’s su­per PAC, like Mr. Demint, has sought to push the Re­pub­li­can Party to the right in pri­mary races.

In some cases, Re­pub­li­can money worked against it­self — even within a fam­ily: Harold Sim­mons’ fam­ily do­nated to all three ma­jor can­di­dates’ su­per PACS last month. In other cases, even large dol­lar amounts high­light vul­ner­a­bil­ity. The Gin­grich su­per PAC con­tin­ued to rely al­most ex­clu­sively on money from the fam­ily of casino mag­nate Shel­don Adel­son.

The su­per PAC sup­port­ing Mr. San­to­rum had only $300,000 on hand March 1, but it has spent $1.7 mil­lion this month, in­di­cat­ing that it has since re­ceived some ma­jor sup­port.

As for cam­paigns, Mr. Gin­grich’s paid the can­di­date $156,000 last month for un­spec­i­fied rea­sons. The Washington Times has re­ported that such pay­ments are against Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (FEC) rules and raise the prospect of self-deal­ing. Last Thurs­day, the FEC faulted the cam­paign for the prac­tice for the third time, point­ing to a statute in the U.S. code that clearly pro­hibits it.

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