By Ari Berman
Want to know how Mitt Romney won Florida and why he’ll almost certainly be the GOP nominee? There’s an easy answer: a Super PAC and deep-pocketed donors.
According to the latest disclosure reports, the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future, raised $30 million in 2011, 98 percent from donors who gave $25,000 or more. The PAC got $10 million from ten donors who gave a million bucks each, including from Houston Republican Bob Perry, the major funder behind the vile Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.
Here’s the recap from the New York Times:
Millions of dollars came from financial industry executives, including Mr. Romney’s former colleagues at Bain Capital, who contributed a total of $750,000; senior executives at Goldman Sachs, who contributed $385,000; and some of the most prominent and politically active Republicans in the hedge fund world, three of whom gave $1 million each: Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies; Paul Singer of Elliott Management, and Julian Robertson of Tiger Management.The Romney campaign itself is almost as dependent on big money as the pro-Romney Super PAC. According to Open Secrets, just 8.8 percent of Romney’s $24 million fourth-quarter haul in 2011 came from donors who gave $200 or less. Thirteen lobbyists, on the other hand, gave $1.2 million to Romney’s campaign, which Michael Beckel of Open Secrets said accounted for “about $1 out of every $20 he raised.” Overall, sixteen corporate lobbyists raised $2 million for Romney in 2011. Of the $56 million that Romney has raised this year, $51 million, or 91 percent, came from contributions giving $200 or more. Romney’s top three campaign contributors are Goldman Sachs ($496,430), JPMorgan ($317,400) and Morgan Stanley ($277,850). Romney’s fundraising further confirms how the candidate is an unabashed proponent of Wall Street and the 1 percent.
Harlan Crow, the Texas construction magnate, gave $300,000 personally and through his company. William Koch, whose brothers Charles and David are among the country’s most prominent backers of conservative causes, gave $1 million personally or through Oxbow Carbon, the energy company he founded. Members of the Walton family, founders of the Walmart chain, gave over $200,000, while Bob Perry—a wealthy home builder who has long been the top patron of Mr. Romney’s erstwhile rival, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas—chipped in $500,000 in early December.
This elite Super PAC money, financed by the 1 percent of the 1 percent, allowed the pro-Romney forces to outspend the pro-Gingrich forces by 5 to 1 on TV ads in Florida. Romney’s side ran 13,000 ads in Florida compared to only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-six percent of the total ads in Florida were negative in nature, with 68 percent targeting Gingrich. Gingrich’s advocacy of the Citizens United decision, which has led to the creation of Super PACs, ironically hastened his demise.
Barack Obama’s fundraising, in contrast, paints a more nuanced version of the candidate, telling the story of two campaigns—one financed by a select group of incredibly rich bundlers, the other bankrolled by the small donors who helped propel Obama to the White House in 2008.
On the big donor front, 445 bundlers raised at least $74.4 million for Obama and the DNC in 2011. Sixty-one bundlers raised $500,000 or more. Last night Obama held his twelfth and thirteenth fundraisers of the month, where the price of admission was $35,800 a head.
On the flip side, of the $39.9 million the Obama campaign raised in the fourth quarter of 2011, 43 percent came from donors spending $200 or less, giving Obama a major small-donor advantage over Romney. (Obama raised $68 million for his campaign and the DNC, but the DNC figures, which are more dependent on large donations, are not yet available.) In total, of the $125 million Obama raised in 2011, 47 percent came from donors giving $200 or less, and 54 percent from donors giving $200 or more. The president’s top three contributors are Microsoft ($188, 643), DLA Piper ($151,375) and Google ($139,030).
The big-money race is only going to intensify from here on out. According to Josh Kraushaar of The Hotline, Obama plus Democratic Super PACs have $98 million to spend in 2012, while GOP groups have $94 million on hand. The GOP has received a major boost from the Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, who raised $51 million last year. Newt Gingrich now likes to say that “people power will defeat money power.” In 2012, I’m afraid the opposite may be true.