GOP’s 2012 Spending War Begins

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wacphiladelphia/4558469973/">World Affairs Council of Philadelphia</a>

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


While top Democratic donors meet in Washington this week to start planning their 2012 election strategy, the Republican Party’s presidential hopefuls have already begun filling their war chests with donations galore. As the New York Times reported Friday, GOP frontrunners including Mitt Romney and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty are using various political action committees registered at the state level to drum up cash for their early presidential nomination bids. These pre-campaign PACs are formed at the state level where donation limits are often more lax than at the federal level.

Pawlenty, for instance, pulled in $60,000 from GOP donor Bob Perry in September, the Times reported; had the donation gone to a federal PAC, campaign finance laws would’ve limited Perry’s gift to $5,000. Romney has set up state-level branches of his federal PAC in places like Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina—all of which are bellwether states in presidential elections. Here’s the Times‘ Michael Luo laying out the 2012 spending wars on the GOP side so far:

Mr. Romney has been by far the most assertive, according to interviews with a half-dozen top Republican fund-raisers, already pushing for commitments from major donors should he formally decide to run.

Over the summer, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, invited top bundlers of campaign checks from key states to his vacation home in New Hampshire on several occasions to help firm up their commitments. Mr. Romney has already lined up an array of prominent supporters, including a billionaire, David Koch, who has donated heavily to conservative causes over the years, and Robert Wood Johnson IV, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets and one of the party’s most coveted fund-raisers.

Mr. Pawlenty has also been putting together a financial apparatus. On Monday and Tuesday evening, for instance, he met with top fund-raisers who flew to Minneapolis to listen to a briefing on his record as governor. Those were the latest in a series of such meetings that began in September, according to William Strong, a vice chairman at Morgan Stanley who has spearheaded fund-raising for Mr. Pawlenty’s political action committee, Freedom First.

Over the last year, Mr. Pawlenty has been methodically courting fund-raisers in get-acquainted, “friend-raiser” sessions and is now moving to deepen those relationships with a potential eye on 2012, Mr. Strong said.

Potential GOP candidates lagging behind include Sarah Palin, who’s raised considerable funds through Sarah PAC, a federally-registered fund, but not much from larger donors. Mike Huckabee as well trails Romney and Pawlenty by a substantial margin in the money race.

So what’s to make of this early wooing of fundraisers by top GOPers? Are people committing to individual candidates this early in the presidential campaign (which to say, before it’s really begun)? In answering these questions, it’s worth bearing in mind what one Washington lobbyist and Republican fundraiser told the Times: “People are shopping. People aren’t buying yet.”

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate