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Huntsman family financing a test of money’s power
Question of the Day
Two-thirds of the money from the main group advancing a presidential bid for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. came from the candidate's father, disclosures filed Tuesday showed.
A super PAC called Our Destiny emerged as the primary spender on ads in primary states advocating Mr. Huntsman because the candidate's campaign itself had trouble attracting donors. New regulations allowing outside groups to accept unlimited contributions from any source and spend them on political races allowed Mr. Huntsman to mount a long-shot bid for the presidency despite polling in the low single digits, shorting the traditional path of raising grassroots support from voters and, in turn, donations to fuel future campaigning as a bid gains traction.
It was a test of whether money could be used to prolong to winnowing process in primaries, jump-starting a groundswell of support that was not taking place organically. The extended life that it provided also banked, perhaps, on increasing dissatisfaction with the more prominent candidates — it provided Mr. Huntsman with with the resources to waiting a few extra weeks for other Republican candidates to slip up.
Candidates have always been allowed to dip into personal savings to finance their own campaigns — think Ross Perot — but prior to 2010, the situation with Mr. Huntsman's wealthy father would not be allowed. Either way, money is seldom enough to make up for genuine voter enthusiasm on its own. That seemed to be the case for Mr. Huntsman, who dropped out of the race this month. There was some evidence of an uptick in polling corresponding with the super PAC's ads, but both the candidate and his father seemed unwilling to press the bid further.
Mr. Huntsman's father made a calculated decision, it would seem — the super PAC spent $50,000 on polling to gauge his prospects, an unusual function for outlets that have thus far existed largely to run television ads. The PAC spent $2.3 million on advertising, with all of it positive, unlike the attacks between super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Of course, it is easier for a second-tier candidate to avoid going on the attack: There's no guarantee any voter dissuaded from voting for one of the other candidates would gravitate towards Mr. Huntsman rather than another rival.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at email@example.com.
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