Top Republican super PAC donors backing Romney

By Stephen Braun

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and his wife Ann wave to a crowd in Schaumburg, Ill., after Romney won the Illinois Republican presidential primary, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Steven Senne, AP

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WASHINGTON — Major contributors to a key Republican political organization founded by political strategist Karl Rove have boosted their financial support for Mitt Romney, signaling that the GOP's big money may be starting to coalesce around Romney's candidacy, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of federal election data released Tuesday.

Wealthy GOP donors like Bob Perry, Philip H. Geier Jr. and Jerry Perenchio collectively provided much of the $6.4 million in contributions last month to the pro-Romney "super" political committee Restore Our Future, mostly from Perry's $3 million contribution, according to campaign records submitted to the Federal Election Commission.

The donors also are among the most generous contributors to American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Rove, who was a top adviser to President George W. Bush. Crossroads is likely to become the pre-eminent GOP group airing negative advertisements against President Barack Obama this year.

The new campaign reports illustrate the financial advantage that Romney — the winner in Tuesday's Illinois primary — harnessed heading into Super Tuesday primary elections. Romney, ahead in the count of Republican delegates, was aided by more than $29 million worth of ads paid for by Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting his campaign.

That $29 million figure is higher than spending by any other Republican super PAC or campaign, including Romney's own campaign. Super PACs, like Romney's and Rove's groups, are not permitted under federal law to coordinate directly with campaigns — but the PACs often pay for media campaigns that allow the candidates to concentrate on state organizations and get-out-the vote efforts.

So far, other GOP candidates have struggled to keep up with the financial support that Romney's candidacy has enjoyed. Gingrich, the former House speaker who won the South Carolina and Georgia primaries, collected only $2.6 million last month while spending roughly $2.8 million during the same period, his campaign said. Much of his support has come in the form of ads from Winning Our Future, which received a $5 million infusion from Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam.

The Rick Santorum-supportive super PAC — the Red, White and Blue Fund — brought in $2.9 million last month, including $600,000 from longtime supporter and Wyoming businessman Foster Friess. Santorum's own campaign pulled in about $8.9 million in contributions during the same period when he saw a surge in support.

All told, the money flowing to Republican super PACs is expected to counterbalance cash flowing to Obama's campaign, which has raised more than $120 million in total contributions as of Feb. 29. The political committee supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action, collected $2 million last month.

Romney has lost several Southern primaries, but his campaign raised more than $11 million in February. Helping his campaign — albeit independently under federal law — Restore Our Future has spent millions on attack ads against rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Perry, 79, previously gave $1 million to the pro-Romney super PAC in addition to his $3 million last month. He also gave $2.5 million to Rove's group. He heads a major Houston-based homebuilding empire and has been a million-dollar player among GOP fundraisers since the late 1990s, working closely with candidates and causes tied to Rove. Perry was a big money contributor to Bush's campaigns for Texas governor and was a top bundler for his 2000 presidential race.

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