By Dan Eggen
A super PAC funded by heavily by hedge fund titans and other financial industry executives spent twice as much as it raised last month to bolster the candidacy of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, underscoring the major influence such groups are having on the 2012 elections, according to new disclosures filed Monday.
The group, called Restore Our Future, reported spending $13.9 million in January on ads, mailings and other activities in support of Romney in the early nomination contests. The super PAC raised $6.6 million during the same period, bringing its total to nearly $37 million since it began accepting contributions last year, records show.
The bulk of the group's money last month came from about two dozen donors giving $100,000 or more, including three who gave $500,000 each: New York hedge fund manager Bruce Covner; Alliance Coal president Joseph Craft; and David Lisonbee, head of a Utah nutritional supplements firm called 4Life Research.
Hotel executives Bill and Richard Marriott of Bethesda also chipped in $250,000 each last month, bringing their combined total to the group to $1.25 million.About a dozen donors have given $1 million or more to the group since last year, with heavy representation from the finance and energy industries.
About a quarter of the money collected has come from corporations, which are free to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections thanks to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling. January's corporate donations included $100,000 from Select Management Resources of Alpharetta, Ga., and $40,000 from a holding company formed by California real estate executive Justin Chang, who has also donated to the group and Romney in his own name.
Restore Our Future is among the largest in a crop of super PACs that have emerged over the past two years to support individual candidates or parties, exerting enormous influence in the early GOP primary states. Super PACs can raise unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations or unions as long as they don't directly coordinate with candidates on how to spend the money
The group's filings show it had about $16 million cash on hand at the end of January, part of which is being spent now to assist Romney's struggle to regain the lead in his home state of Michigan from rival Rick Santorum. Restore Our Future has been crucial in bombarding Romney opponents with negative ads, and is aiming to play a similar role in the Michigan primary on Feb. 28 and Super Tuesday contests March 6.