Second quarter fundraising reports show that a number of Republicans are interested in running for president in 2012. As expected, Mitt Romney leads the way, raising over $1.5 million for his Free and Strong PAC.
Romney’s haul dwarfed what his potential presidential primary opponents raised in the three-month period. Sarah Palin, who was his closest challenger, raised $865,000. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty raised $723,000, an impressive amount for a candidate who doesn’t have the star power of Romney or Palin.
The other candidates who raised significant amounts in advance of a potential presidential campaign were Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich.
The 2012 nomination process will not begin in earnest until after the 2010 elections, but the serious contenders will be extremely active between now and election day. These presidential hopefuls use their leadership PACs to pay for travel, to grow their political organizations in key states, and to make contributions to candidates and organizations that may be helpful in the future if they eventually run for national office.
Two candidates in particular seem to be the most serious at this point in time. In addition to raising the most money in the last three months, Mitt Romney also has five state PACs in Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has already been a frequent visitor to Iowa, also has an Iowa PAC.
In the lead-up to the 2008 presidential campaign, Romney was the only eventual candidate who used state PACs. The advantage an Iowa PAC gives candidates is that there are no contribution limits, while individuals can only contribute $5000 to a candidate’s federal leadership PAC. Romney’s use of state PACs gave him an advantage in 2008 and will likely lead to every serious presidential candidate having an Iowa PAC.
Pawlenty’s Iowa PAC is in its formative stages as it was only formed on June 10th of this year. Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC – Iowa raised $32,500 from just three contributions. His Iowa PAC made three expenditures to out-of-state entities totaling $6,100.
Romney’s Free and Strong PAC – Iowa was created in October of 2008. It is the successor to Romney’s Commonwealth PAC – Iowa, which he used in advance of this 2008 presidential campaign. Romney’s Iowa PAC received eight contributions totaling $81,600. His PAC made 131 expenditures totaling $81,700.
The only Iowa expenditure that Romney’s Iowa PAC made was a $10,000 contribution to Terry Branstad’s campaign for governor. It was also the only expenditure that Romney’s PAC made to any Iowa entity.
Romney ‘s Iowa PAC is mainly used to pay a portion of his national staff’s salaries and travel. Romney heavyweights like Beth Myers, Peter Flaherty, Matt Rhoades, and Spencer Zwick all receive a portion of their salary from the Iowa PAC.
Besides the contribution to the Branstad campaign, Romney’s Iowa PAC only made two other political contributions, both of which going to South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley for $3500 each.
While it seems to make sense to allow potential presidential candidates to come to set up Iowa PACs, it’s disconcerting to see a candidate like Romney use it to skirt the federal contribution limits. Instead of using the PAC to make contributions to Iowa candidates, pay for Iowa staff, or pay for travel and events in Iowa, Romney is using it to pay for staff that have yet to step foot in the state since 2008.
We are going to see more and more potential 2012 candidates create Iowa PACs in the coming months. While there are no restrictions on what you can use the money for, it seems like Iowa’s campaign finance laws have created a loophole that some candidates are willing to exploit.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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