RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
As the Republican candidates rallied their supporters last night in Florida, their campaigns were quietly sending disclosure reports to the Federal Election Commission in Washington. The big picture: Mitt Romney had more money than Newt Gingrich, President Obama had more than both of them put together. And a few of the new superPACs filed donor lists filled with high-rollers.
NPR's Peter Overby has details.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: It wouldn't be a Newt Gingrich speech without historical references. And last night in Florida, the candidate with the underfunded campaigned summoned up the Gettysburg Address and Abraham Lincoln.
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NEWT GINGRICH: ...who said we have government of the people, by the people, for the people. And we're going to have people power defeat money power in the next six months.
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OVERBY: The disclosures last night at the Federal Election Commission only go up through December 31st, but there are still some essential truths. In the last quarter of 2011, Gingrich had his best fundraising of the year, but so did Mitt Romney.
Under disclosures, Gingrich reported raising almost $10 million. Romney reported $24 million. Gingrich had $2 million cash on hand on New Year's Day. Romney had nearly 10 times that, thanks to a donor network in which 66 percent of the money came from people who could write checks for the legal maximum: $2,500.
Sheila Krumholz is director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. She says Romney's fundraising is likely to accelerate from here.
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: You know, with this showing in Florida, you know, naturally, this early money begets money and will likely, you know, continue that success.
OVERBY: And indeed, at 9:00 PM last night, Romney's campaign started pitching a One Term Fund online, with a goal of a million bucks. Meanwhile, President Obama's campaign raised $40 million in the quarter, down from the previous report, but still enough to leave a bank balance of $81 million. That appears to be about twice as much as was raised in the fourth quarter by Romney, Gingrich, and the other two GOP candidates, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul combined.
The Obama campaign got just 9 percent of its money from maxed-out donors, and it got 43 percent from donors who gave $200 or less. The pace is ahead of the first Obama campaign, and if it remains on that trajectory, it would come close to a billion dollars by Election Day.
KRUMHOLZ: I'm not sure how important it is to meet the $1 billion mark.
OVERBY: Again, Sheila Krumholz.
KRUMHOLZ: There's so much more action and serious money being driven by superPACs, and ultimately, by their nonprofit counterparts in this election.
OVERBY: This is the first presidential election with superPACs which sprang up after Citizens United and some other legal decisions opened the door wider for unlimited contributions.
There are superPACs running alongside all of the presidential campaigns. The one backing Romney is the most prosperous. It reported raising $18 million. Forty corporations and other businesses gave money. Three financiers gave a million dollars each.
Last month, the pro-Gingrich superPAC started to catch up, with $10 million from a casino billionaire and his wife. But the report filed last night shows that before that happened, the superPAC had only collected $2 million.
And that's about the same level as the pro-Obama superPAC. It reported receipts of just over a million, with most of it coming from one source: the Service Employees International Union.
Krumholz says the lists of big donors look a lot like they did in the 1990s, back when it was legal to give unlimited soft money contributions to the party committees.
KRUMHOLZ: These are the folks with the money, and - as well as people who clearly want to be kind of at the head of the pack.
OVERBY: Congress cut off soft money for the party committees in 2002. A decade later, it seems soft money has found a new home.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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