- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised more than $12 million from just 90 donations so far this year in an unprecedented use of a fundraising account that can accept unlimited, loosely-regulated contributions in support of a presidential bid.

Disclosures filed Sunday show a supremely flush reserve for the man seeking to lead some 300 million-plus Americans, bankrolled by a few dozen in the finance industry, with some donations coming directly from corporations and others ascribed to near-anonymous addresses in Utah.

The total far overshadows that of similarly-structured funds set up to collect unlimited contributions in support of President Obama’s re-election.

Of four $1 million donations, two came from cryptically-named limited liability companies, or LLCs, sharing the same office suite in Provo, Utah. The only one with a recognizable name attached arrived from the 50th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper: The offices of John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made millions of dollars an hour betting on the implosion of the housing market.

Illustrating the poor disclosure that accompanies the lack of monetary limits on such accounts, the final million-dollar donation was reported simply as coming from “W Spann LLC” of 590 Madison Ave. in New York, with no suite number or other identifying information. That building has housed offices for Paulson, lobbyists Akin Gump and Bain Capital, the hedge fund Mr. Romney once led.

The haul outweighs that of four Democratic super-PACs combined, who raised a combined $6 million in 82 contributions. In contrast to Mr. Romney’s fund, most of whose donations were $50,000 or greater, those four groups received only one seven-figure contribution, a $2 million donation from Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg.

The largest of the four Democratic groups, Priorities USA Action, is the brainchild of two former top White House staffers who left the administration to run the shadow group and will likely concentrate on the presidential race. It raised just over $3 million.

Two of the Democratic groups also have arms that can collect contributions that don’t have to be disclosed, but that are limited in the type of advocacy they can carry out. Those affiliates raised an additional $3.5 million.

Browse the 90 unlimited donations to Mr. Romney’s super-PAC by clicking the dots below, or view a list.

While the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Mr. Obama’s campaign often boast they do not accept money from lobbyists or corporations, Priorities USA Action received $5,000 each from two lobbyists: Steve Elmendorf of Elmendorf Ryan and Joel Johnson of the Glover Park Group.

Unlike Mr. Romney’s fund, which has spent nearly nothing, the Democratic groups have already depleted more than $2 million of their donations.

Mr. Romney’s unlimited-donations haul came disproportionately from the hedge-fund industry, including more than a $1 million from Bain Capital investors.

Affiliates of the Marriott family gave $1 million. The hotel magnates, like Mr. Romney, are Mormons.

A total of $500,000 came from New Balance, the only footwear company with factories in the United States. Free-trade talks under way between the Obama administration and eight countries including Vietnam could jeopardize those U.S. factories, the company has said.

In the last few presidential elections, tax-exempt ideological outside groups known as 527s, after the section of the tax code they are created under, raised and spent millions, including money directly from corporations. But never before has such a group been so closely aligned with the candidate himself or raised similar sums so early.

MoveOn.org, for years the biggest-money Democratic-leaning independent group, raised $4 million in the first half of 2011.

The donations to the Restore Our Future “super-PAC” supplement the $18 million raised by Mr. Romney’s official presidential campaign in the second quarter. Two-thirds of that money came from donors giving $2,500, the maximum allowed by law for a presidential primary campaign.

Those donations were gathered in part by highly-influential persons known as “bundlers,” who tap their social and business networks for donations on behalf of a candidate. Mr. Romney has declined to disclose the names of his bundlers, despite doing so in 2008.