Friday, March 2, 2012

Super PAC backing Romney paid a fundraiser $1.9 millio

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By Peter H. Stone

The main outside group that's raised huge sums to support Mitt Romney's presidential campaign paid a fundraising firm $1.9 million for work during a period when the group raised about $24 million, according to new filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The hefty fees paid to Podium Capital Group suggest that court rulings in early 2010 that opened the floodgates to unlimited contributions from corporations, wealthy individuals and labor unions have not only been a bonanza for political candidates, but also for elite operatives working for the new breed of super PACs.

Podium Capital is headed by Steve Roche, the top fundraiser for Restore Our Future, the principal "super" political action committee that's backing Romney's campaign, said Charles Spies, the group's treasurer.

Roche is a longtime major fundraiser for Romney, going back to Romney's days as Massachusetts' governor. He worked directly for Romney's campaign until last summer, then shifted to the PAC's chief fundraising job. At that time, Restore Our Future had pulled in just over $12 million, the figure it reported to the FEC for the first six months of 2011.

Although the super PAC is prohibited under federal election law from coordinating its work with the campaign, the transfer of such a senior operative from one group to another is not prohibited.
As of the end of January, Restore Our Future had raised $36.8 million, far outstripping the funds raised by super PACs backing other GOP candidates Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. The pro-Romney super PAC has raked in much of its funds in seven- and six-figure donations from multimillionaires and billionaires, including several Wall Street hedge fund moguls such as John Paulson and Julian Robertson.

A large chunk of the PAC's spending went to negative ads to pummel Gingrich in Florida before its Jan. 31 primary, which Romney won handily, and to attack Santorum ahead of Michigan's primary on Tuesday, where the two candidates are locked in a tight race, according to polls.

On FEC records, Podium Capital lists only a post office box in Beverly, Mass. Podium received $1.9 million for its work from mid-2011 through the end of January, according to the FEC filing.
Asked whether he deemed the fees paid to Roche's company reasonable, Spies said, "We don't comment on payments to specific vendors."

Calls to a phone number for Roche in Massachusetts were not answered.
(Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity contributed.)

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