-- The Free and Strong America federal political action committee, which was organized to mirror the leadership PACs set up by scores of members of Congress. Since 2007, the PAC has raised $14 million, much of which funded Romney's profile-raising travel and political machinery before he became a candidate. The committee also has donated $1.2 million to Republicans holding or seeking congressional seats - $772,000 to 257 recipients in the 2010 election cycle alone.
-- Romney's campaign, a fixture dating to Jan. 3, 2007, when he began his first presidential bid, spent $105 million, including $44.6 million of his own money, in losing the GOP nomination to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Among the biggest donors to the current campaign, which has raised $62 million so far, have been executives of Goldman Sachs and of Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney co-founded.
-- Restore Our Future, the independent super PAC run on behalf of Romney that has to date reported raising $36.8 million from a few dozen large donors, including $3 million from Romney's former Bain colleagues and their wives. The committee has become the chief vehicle for bankrolling broadcast ads attacking Romney's rivals in primary states.
Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Minnesota, said the record illustrates that "Romney has been aggressively pursuing ... and exploiting" loopholes in federal and state campaign fundraising laws.
Since Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race, none of Romney's GOP opponents has been able to compete with his $100 million fundraising machine. Santorum's campaign and main super PAC have raised a combined $9.5 million through Jan. 31. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and his super PAC have collected $34.3 million. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign and super PAC have raised $31.2 million.
Schier said that without Romney's personal wealth and financial connections, "I don't even think we'd be talking about Mitt Romney today as a candidate. Take it all away and where is he? He's nowhere."
To whom might Romney owe favors? Goldman Sachs not only wrote his 2008 campaign a $2 million loan, but its executives also given more than $1 million to his two presidential campaigns and his federal PAC since 2008, according to a McClatchy analysis of data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The same committees collected over $650,000 from Bain Capital and its predecessor firm, Bain & Co.
Those are among a dozen major banks, hedge funds and private equity firms, some of which share a strong interest in preserving a special 15 percent tax rate on much of their income, that have given Romney's federal committees over $4 million.
Those donations, however, are outstripped by those arriving at the super PAC Restore Our Future, which collected $1 million each from at least 10 donors or couples, including New York hedge fund figures John Paulson, Paul Singer and Julian Robertson, Romney's former Bain colleague Edward Conard, and Bain Capital Partner Paul Edgerly and his wife, Sandra.
Romney was in his second year as Massachusetts governor in 2004 when his operatives took what critics call unmistakable steps to lay the groundwork for a presidential run by forming the first of a half dozen so-called "Commonwealth" committees.
By 2006, six of the committees were raising money in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan, Arizona and Alabama. Soon, they temporarily changed their names to Free and Strong America PACs, matching Romney's federal committee, with the stated purpose of supporting state candidates favoring limited government.
The first donor listed by the Iowa committee in the fall of 2004 was businessman Darrell Crate, a former chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party who is now treasurer of Romney's presidential campaign, state campaign filings show. Crate's $6,500 donation was accompanied, on the same day, by $6,000 from Robert White, a co-founder of Bain Capital and close Romney friend who is a part owner of the Boston Celtics. More than $22,000 soon followed from others at Bain or its affiliates.
Those donations soon would be dwarfed.
A committee formed in Alabama, which places no limits on the size of contributions, reported in 2006 donations of $100,000 each from Goldman Sachs managing director Muneer Satter and B. Wayne Hughes, the chairman and founder of Public Storage, $84,330 from billionaire Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner, who has since died, and more than $124,000 from conservative chief executive J. W. Marriott, Jr. of Marriott International and his brother, Richard Marriott. Marshall Wallach, a Denver-based investment banker, gave $86,500, and Texas real estate magnate Bob Perry contributed $80,000.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party, later joined by Alabama Democrats, complained to the FEC that Romney was illegally using the state PACs to help his presidential campaign. Romney spokeswoman Saul said the Democratic complaint "has no merit," dismissing it as "a political stunt" initially aimed at ruining a Romney visit to New Hampshire.
The FEC has yet to rule on the complaint, but has never penalized a presidential candidate for using state committees. The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats and often has been stalled by partisan impasses.
The consumer interest group Public Citizen, after obtaining the records of secret FEC votes through the Freedom of Information Act, recently reported that votes on enforcement matters ended in deadlocks 109 times from 2003 through 2010.
Despite its donations, the pro-Romney's PACs had mixed results in winning endorsements.
From 2004 to 2010, the Iowa PAC gave $541,000 to county Republican committees and GOP candidates for the state Legislature and statewide offices, topped by $130,000 to former Rep. Jim Nussle's 2006 campaign for governor. Romney's PAC and Nussle even worked together to fund five county Republican operations. Nussle lost the election for governor, and then endorsed Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential race.
In 2010, the Iowa PAC gave $30,000 to Terry Branstad's successful bid to return to the governor's office. Branstad, however, declined to endorse anyone before the recent Iowa caucuses, which Romney barely lost.
In South Carolina, where Romney's election prospects were bleaker, his Commonwealth PAC raised less money and donated modestly, except for a $4,000 contribution to Tea Party candidate Nikki Haley before she won the governorship. Haley has endorsed Romney.
In Michigan, Romney won endorsements from seven U.S. House members who got $2,500 in 2010 from his federal PAC, but donations of $4,500 each in 2010 and 2011 to Reps. Candice Miller and Justin Amash went for naught. Miller endorsed Perry and Amash backed Paul.
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