Romney Plants $eeds in South Carolina
When it comes to fundraising for a potential 2008 presidential bid, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is doing things differently than any of the other Republicans (or Democrats) also mulling a run for the White House.
Most of these aspirants are raising cash for their personal campaign accounts, like Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and George Allen (R-Va.). Or they are raising funds for leadership political action committees -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D).
Romney has a federal PAC (The Commonwealth PAC), but he has also established state-based fundraising committees in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan -- states whose caucuses or primaries will occur in the earliest days of the '08 presidential nominating contest.
Romney has focused his presidential fundraising on his state groups for several reasons. First, a single donor is limited to contributing $5,000 a year to any federal PAC, but a donor can make considerably larger donations to state-chartered PACs (neither Iowa nor Michigan have contribution limits; an individual can give $3,500 in South Carolina and $5,000 in New Hampshire).
Given that each state has different filing regulations, Romney's state-based strategy makes it considerably more difficult to track where his contributions are coming from and what he is doing with the money. The Boston Globe did the definitive story to date on Romney's multi-state fundraising groups last month.
The Fix likes a challenge, however, and has been monitoring Romney's various state filings. South Carolina came in a few days ago, and after poring over it for the past 24 hours, here's what I found:
Between April 1 and June 30 the South Carolina Commonwealth PAC raised $236,000 -- the vast majority of which came in the form of $3,500 donations. Twenty-seven individuals in the state of Utah gave to the PAC while 14 donors were based in Massachusetts. Thirteen contributors had California home addresses while six live in Michigan. Not a single contributor to the organization came from South Carolina. The depth and breadth of the donations from Utah signal -- as The Fix has long maintained -- that Romney's Mormon faith will allow him to tap a massive funding source not fully exploited by politicians in the past.
A few well-known names in donor circles popped up on Romney's South Carolina filing, including New York developer Robert Congel, a "Ranger" for President Bush in 2004, as well as Bush "Pioneers" Edward Levy, a Michigan trucking company executive, and David Weinstein, a Boston-based executive for Fidelity investments. Mark Chapin Johnson, a wealthy and politically active California businessman, also donated the maximum $3,500 to Romney's South Carolina fund in the period.
As interesting as who is giving to Romney is who is on the receiving end of his largesse -- lots (and lots) of South Carolina candidates. The PAC made a whopping 60 donations of $500 each to South Carolina candidates, with 47 going to sitting state House members. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer received a $2,000 contribution while state Adjutant General Stan Spears, state Comptroller Richard Eckstrom and Secretary of State Mark Hammond got $1,000 each. (A sidenote that speaks well of the political savvy of Romney's campaign team: Every donation to a candidate was made on June 28 -- the day AFTER the state held its primary runoff election.)
Romney didn't neglect state and local party committees either. He sent $5,000 to the South Carolina Republican Party, $3,500 to the state Senate GOP caucus and $2,000 to several large county GOP committees, including those in Charleston, Horry, Lexington and Richland. The party groups in smaller counties -- Dorchester, Georgetown, Pickens and Sumter among others -- received $500 donations.
A few consultants and consulting firms were also listed on the PAC's expenditures. Leslie Gaines, a Greenville-based consultant, took in $5,000. SCM Associates, a New Hampshire-based direct-mail firm, was also on the payroll. SJZ LLC, a Boston-based consulting operation, took in more than $5,000 during the period.
These contributions and expenditures mean Romney is using his state-based organizations (as well as his federal PAC) to build the financial infrastructure to run for president. He is seeding politicians and parties in key states with campaign cash in hopes of collecting chits down the road.
Watch this space in the coming weeks and months as Romney's other state-based committees file financial reports.
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