Obama faces growing GOP super PAC financial power

By Stephen Braun

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 21 2012 8:02 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — The national campaigns backing President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are drawing even in their fundraising prowess, but new financial filings released show that the "super" political committees supporting the GOP candidate and his party are widening the money gap over struggling pro-Democratic party organizations.

The main pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, on Wednesday reported raising $8 million in May, giving it a total of $64 million so far. The group spent more than $55 million to defeat Romney's opponents during the GOP primary, and it is now reaping high-dollar financial aid from both veteran Romney supporters and from donors who once backed his rivals.

A political committee backing Obama, Priorities USA Action, posted its strongest one-month total by raking in $4 million in May, a sign that Democrats had begun digging deep into their wallets after months of hesitance. But the pro-Obama group was still left in the dust — not only by the Restore committee's strong performance but also by the latest tally from American Crossroads, a Republican super PAC formed by GOP strategist Karl Rove. It raised $4.6 million in May.

After early months that saw Obama reach impressive fundraising totals echoing his campaign's record-breaking $750 million haul in 2008, the changing calculus raises the prospect that he could become the first incumbent president outspent by his challenger. Romney's national campaign joined with the Republican Party in May to raise more than $76 million, outpacing Obama and the Democrats' $60 million haul during the same period.

Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash but are not allowed to coordinate their efforts with the candidates they support. The national presidential campaigns can devote their cash both to media and Web ads and to turn out party faithful, but the super PACs tend to spend most of their war chests on media campaigns. The new super PAC filings show not only the sweep of big-money donors, but also hint at the private interests motivating their largess.

The latest financial filings for the pro-Romney Restore committee show that while he was consolidating his position as the GOP favorite, backers of some of his opponents were shifting their financial allegiance to his cause — even as some of his loyal super PAC backers dug deeper to bankroll the committee's tough media ads now targeting Obama.

The biggest contributions to Restore Our Future in May came from a trio of firms linked to a Houston-based businessman who previously supported a Romney rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The disclosures show that three companies based at the same post office box office in Dayton, Ohio, each gave $333,333 to the pro-Romney super PAC. Corporation records show the firms are headed by Houston businessman Robert T. Brockman, who missed giving the super PAC a rounded-off $1 million donation by a single dollar.

Brockman heads the Reynolds and Reynolds Co., an Ohio-based firm that provides computer and software systems for auto dealerships. Brockman's personal website lists him only as chairman and CEO of the Reynolds and Reynolds Co., but his name is not listed with any of the Dayton donations. Calls to Brockman at his office in Houston were not immediately returned to The Associated Press.

Although super PACs are required to divulge all their donations, loose disclosure rules allow contributors to withhold their names and mask their donations by setting up limited liability corporations or other front companies. One of Restore's first donors, Edward Conard, made a $1 million contribution last year behind a front company, W Spann LLC, until public pressure forced him to acknowledge his name and affiliation with Romney's former private equity firm, Bain Capital.

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