PACs Donate To GOP Presidential Contenders
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And now because it's never too early to talk about presidential campaigns, we bring you a report from NPR's Peter Overby. He says only one Republican has actually announced he's running - businessman Herman Cain - but at least nine others have been raising money for months.
PETER OVERBY: Like the others who are shying away from the starting gain, Mitt Romney says he hasn't actually decided to run, even as he appeared on three network news shows Tuesday. He spoke with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "Good Morning America."
(Soundbite of TV show, "Good Morning America")
Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts): But I can tell you that I'm very drawn to the fact that this country needs someone who has private sector experience.
OVERBY: And so the former investment banker and Massachusetts governor has been raising money - more than $10 million over the past two years. It's not for a Romney for president campaign. It flows through a political action committee called Free and Strong America.
Other likely GOP contenders are doing the same thing. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has a PAC called America's Foundation. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has the Freedom First PAC, and so forth.
For the midterm election, their overt goal was to help Republicans win seats in Congress and state offices. Lobbyist Vin Weber is an advisor to Pawlenty, a fellow Minnesotan.
Mr. VIN WEBER (Lobbyist): All the potential candidates were spending a lot of time going around the country giving money to candidates, campaigning for candidates.
OVERBY: So money's been flying in and out. Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina got checks of two or three thousand dollars from the PACs of Pawlenty, Santorum, Sarah Palin and South Dakota Senator Joe Thune, plus 62,000 from Romney. Romney's PAC even gave 5,000 to the PAC of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who may end up facing Romney in the GOP primaries.
Most of this money is regulated and disclosed much the way presidential campaign spending would be, but not all of it. Several of the PACs have branch offices in states where the laws aren't as strict. That means donors could give multiple times in big amounts.
Anne Bauer of the nonpartisan National Institute on Money and State Politics tracked down these state committees.
Ms. ANNE BAUER (National Institute on Money and State Politics): In order to find all this money then, a citizen is going to have to go to each state, look for each candidate's committees. I think that's the thing that struck me the most - is just how difficult it is to get a handle on how much money is floating around out there.
OVERBY: But as soon as a candidate formally announces, that unregulated money becomes history.
Mr. CHARLES SPIES (2008 Romney Campaign Counsel): Even a billionaire could only give $2,400 to a presidential primary campaign.
OVERBY: That's Charles Spies. He was counsel to Romney's presidential campaign in 2008.
Mr. SPIES: Somebody who can raise money, who has a network of business colleagues or friends that'll give a couple thousand dollars each, is probably more valuable to a presidential campaign than just millionaires.
OVERBY: And now comes the tricky part: over the next couple of months campaigns are going to start making their campaigns officials. They'll be having heart to heart talks with their big donors and bundlers of campaign money, especially all those who've been helping more than one candidate. Again, Vin Weber.
Mr. WEBER: The conversation becomes, obviously, more explicit about a presidential candidacy as you move to the next stage. There is pressure, of course, for people to make a decision exclusive of other candidates.
OVERBY: And then there will be the toughest fundraising mission in modern American politics: facing what could be a billion-dollar reelection campaign by President Obama.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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