Romney Victory fund sharing cash with four states but not Utah

Published: Thursday, May 31 2012 5:43 p.m. MDT

Mitt Romney

Carlos Osorio, AP

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SALT LAKE CITY — Big money donors to next week's Mitt Romney fundraiser at the Grand America Hotel also will be contributing to the Republican Party in four states — but not in Utah.

Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont are the only state parties designated to receive a share of the money raised by the recently created Romney Victory fund, which allows donors to write a check for as much as $78,500.

Those donors will be treated to a special dinner with Romney at a private home in the Salt Lake area after his June 8 fundraiser that costs a minimum of $2,500 to attend, or $10,000 to mingle at a VIP reception that includes a photo with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Under Federal Election Commission regulations, $5,000 of the maximum $78,500 contribution goes to Romney's campaign, while the Republican National Committee gets $30,800, and the designated state parties, $40,000.

What's not clear, however, is why those four state parties were chosen to receive the cash.

"I'm sure there's a good reason. I just don't know the answer," Utah State GOP Chairman Thomas Wright said.

A Romney campaign aide said on background that the joint fundraising committee "includes state parties that are permitted by federal election law to make unlimited federal dollar transfers to the battleground states."

But a Washington, D.C., lawyer specializing in FEC regulations said all state parties are able to make such transfers.

"There's no legal reason to choose those four state parties over others," Matthew Sanderson said. "My educated guess is that they chose those four because they trust those four party chairs to honor any requests for disbursing funds to battlegrounds as needed."

None of the four states where the money is going are considered competitive in the 2012 presidential race. Both Massachusetts and Vermont are expected to go for the Democratic candidate, President Barack Obama, while Idaho and Oklahoma are being counted for Romney.

In contrast, the Obama Victory Fund is distributing its share of money collected for state Democratic parties to states that are considered up for grabs in November: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

"I don't get it," said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics. The nonpartisan organization tracks campaign spending through its website, opensecrets.org.

Biersack said similar funds in past elections have funneled money to key battleground states. In the case of Romney's fund, he said, "the states that are participating are a little weird."

Details of how much is being raised and spent through Romney's fund, as well as any transfers from the state Republican parties sharing in the contributions, likely won't have to be publicly disclosed until July 15, Biersack said.

That the fund will have to disclose its finances makes the choice of state Republican parties receiving the cash even more of a mystery, he said. "It's not like you can keep a secret where the money is going to," Biersack said.

Sanderson said the amount going to the state parties will be substantial, even though each donor can only contribute a maximum of $10,000 through a joint fundraising committee to a single state party.

"That adds up to a lot of money," Sanderson said.

Wright said Utah's Republican Party wasn't expecting to see any of the cash.

Utah, after all, gave Romney an unprecedented 90 percent of the vote in the 2008 GOP state primary over the party's eventual nominee four years ago, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"We are all working together for the same cause," Wright said. "We fully support his candidacy for president. I don't feel slighted at all."

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