Wed, Feb 22, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Super PACs now bigger than the candidates in US

SCARY NUMBERS:Super PACs and other groups had to disclose how much they raised and the identities of their donors in reports filed with the FEC on Monday

AP, Washington

An unmistakable dynamic is playing out in the money game among US Republican presidential candidates: New “super” political action committees (PACS) are growing more powerful than the campaigns they support.

For two of the Republican 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.

Mitt Romney-leaning Restore Our Future and Newt Gingrich-supportive Winning Our Future raised a combined US$17 million last month and spent nearly US$24 million during that same 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.

BEHIND THE SCENES

The groups’ fundraising last month offers a periodic 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 US$16 million cash on hand, has been boosted by more than two dozen repeat donors. Winning Our Future, which had US$2.4 million in the bank, is largely supported by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife.

Meanwhile, Romney’s presidential campaign raised US$6.5 million last month and had US$7.7 million left over for his presidential bid, while Gingrich’s campaign raised US$5.5 million during the same period and had about US$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 how much they raised and the identities of their donors in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by midnight on Monday.

Those reports provided a snapshot of fundraising for US President Barack Obama’s early campaign and for Republican candidates as they battled during important primary elections last month.

During the month, Republican candidates Gingrich and Rick Santorum had briefly surged ahead of Romney, but trailed the former Massachusetts governor in fundraising. Since then, Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, has climbed remarkably in polls while Gingrich’s support has eroded just as stunningly following the former House of Representatives speaker’s disappointing showing in Florida’s primary.

RESTORE OUR FUTURE

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 purchased thanks to the financial help of repeat donors, including Marriott International chairman J.W. Marriott Jr, who has given the super PAC US$750,000 to date.

The super PAC also reported new donors, including Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman. Romney mentored Whitman, recently an unsuccessful candidate for California governor, during the 1980s at Boston-based Bain & Co, the private equity firm Romney headed.

Whitman’s US$100,000 check to Restore Our Future came days after she joined Romney at a celebration of his victory in the New Hampshire primary.

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