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(Updates with ad buy in second and fifth paragraphs. For more 2012 campaign news, see ELECT)
Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Restore Our Future, a U.S. political action committee supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, started this month with about $16 million in cash - - 26 times more than its chief competitor’s camp.
Red White and Blue Fund, the super-PAC supporting former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, raised $2.1 million in January and finished the month with $626,607 to spend. Even so, the PAC has continued to raise money in February and today announced an additional $600,000 advertising buy in Michigan, Romney’s birthplace and the site of a Feb. 28 primary.
The emergence of super-PACs has altered the dynamics of the presidential campaign, aiding candidates when they run short of money or running negative ads so the White House hopefuls can stay positive.
Restore Our Future has helped Romney “respond overwhelmingly and negatively to a challenger that threatens” his lead, said Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington.
With the additional ad buy, the Red White and Blue Fund will have spent about $1.3 million on Santorum’s behalf in Michigan, said Stuart Roy, a spokesman for the group.
Sources of Cash
More than three-fourths of the pro-Santorum money in January came from two donors -- William Dore, president of Dore Energy Corp. in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who contributed $1 million; and Foster Friess, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, who donated $669,000 last month after giving $331,000 to the PAC last year, bringing his total to $1 million.
The pro-Romney group, which raised $6.6 million last month, also began February with about seven times as much in the bank as a super-PAC supporting former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. That PAC, Winning Our Future, had $2.4 million coming into February. Almost all of its $11 million in donations last month came from Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife, Miriam, each of whom gave $5 million, and Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who donated $500,000.
Priorities USA Action, which backs President Barack Obama’s re-election and was founded by former White House aides, raised just $58,816 in January and ended the month with $1.3 million in the bank. The lack of cash may have helped spur Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, to e-mail supporters on Feb. 6 that White House and Cabinet officials would begin helping the super-PAC raise money to take on Republican groups.
Unlike the pro-Santorum and pro-Gingrich super-PACs, which have been dependent on a few wealthy individual donors, the super-PAC backing Romney raised most of its money, $5.8 million, from 40 donors who gave at least $50,000 each, according to a filing the group submitted yesterday to the Federal Election Commission. Bruce Kovner, co-founder of the New York-based hedge fund Caxton Associates LP, and two other people gave $500,000 each.
The figures were released as Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, campaigned in Cincinnati, focusing on the economy and criticizing Santorum for voting to raise the debt ceiling without offsetting spending cuts. “When Republicans go to Washington and spend like Democrats, you’re going to have a lot of spending,” Romney said.
Restore Our Future commercials have made similar charges against Santorum. The super-PACs aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates, yet they are often run by allies, including former staff members, who mount helpful advertising campaigns.
“They have been the attack dogs in this year’s cycle, helping to make or seal the fates of various contenders in several contests,” said Costas Panagopoulos, director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy at Fordham University in New York.
They have also helped Gingrich and Santorum compete with the better-funded Romney through the early primaries and caucuses. Both Santorum, who won Iowa, and Gingrich, who won South Carolina, saw their campaign fundraising tick up last month after their victories.
“They’ve helped facilitate a robust, competitive primary campaign by giving candidates like Newt Gingrich, who may otherwise have run out of steam, additional visibility and time to build up a viable campaign,” said David Primo, a political science professor at the University of Rochester in New York.
Restore Our Future spent more than $11 million in January to buy advertisements as the primary season officially began. That made up most of the almost $14 million spent during the month. Money also went to direct mail, polling and calls to voters.
The group continued to benefit from Romney’s ties to the financial world as a former private equity executive. David Tepper of Appaloosa Management LP gave Restore Our Future $375,000 last month. The group also got $250,000 from Julian Robertson, co-founder of the hedge fund Tiger Management LLC.
J.W. Marriott Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of the hotel operator Marriott International Inc., and Richard Marriott, chairman of Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., gave $250,000 apiece. Both companies are based in Bethesda, Maryland. Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Meg Whitman contributed $100,000.
Spreading the Wealth
Simmons, who gave $500,000 to the pro-Gingrich super-PAC, also gave $100,000 to Restore Our Future. He and his Dallas- based holding company, Contran Corp., have spread their money around this political season, also giving $1 million to the super-PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race last month. In addition, Simmons and Contran gave $12 million to American Crossroads, a super-PAC advised by Karl Rove, the top political aide to former President George W. Bush.
A super-PAC supporting Romney rival Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, said it raised $2.4 million last month, with $1.7 million coming from Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal Inc., now owned by San Jose, California-based eBay Inc. The group, Endorse Liberty, spent more than $2.9 million during the month and ended up with $60,181 in cash.
--With assistance from Kristin Jensen, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Leslie Hoffecker in Washington and Mark Niquette in Columbus . Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Leslie Hoffecker
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