- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2014

A “Ready for Romney” political action committee announced its formation over the weekend, paving the way should Mitt Romney make another bid for president — but even some of the two-time candidate’s advisers don’t know who’s behind it.

The committee is the latest entry in what’s become a crowded field of PAC stalking horses, joining ones that have formed to boost former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Dr. Ben Carson.

But the unauthorized nature of Ready for Romney underscores the murky nature of the situation, where PACs can form to recruit candidates even if they say they don’t have an interest in running.

The calls for Mr. Romney to take a third stab at the presidency have been picking up in some GOP circles, boosted by polls that show the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee is running in front of the field of likely contenders.

Over the weekend, a press release went out announcing that “supporters of Mitt Romney filed the appropriate paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to establish a ‘Super PAC’ with the goal of urging Mitt Romney [to] run for the presidency in 2016.”

The release named Jeff Goff as executive director of “Ready for Romney” and invited people to request the group’s organizing documents via email.

The group, though, did not respond to an email inquiry, and some of the members of Mr. Romney’s inner circle from the 2012 campaign said they were clueless about the effort.

“I’m not familiar with the PAC or the person,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a longtime aide to Mr. Romney.

Stuart Stevens, a Romney strategist, said he never heard of Mr. Goff and said he doesn’t “know anyone who does.”

A spokesman for the FEC said “Ready for Romney” had yet to register but said the group could have mailed in its information, which would take longer to receive and be processed.

Compared to some others, the group would be a little late to the game.

Ready for Hillary filed with the FEC in January 2013, even before Mrs. Clinton stepped down as State Department secretary.

About four months later, RAND PAC was formed to bolster Sen. Rand Paul’s image in key swing states.

Political analysts say some of the pro-candidate committees are unauthorized efforts ostensibly to recruit someone into the race, while others appear to have the blessing of a potential candidate, including Ready for Hillary and RAND PAC.

“Some of them are communication apparatus[es] that serve as a placeholder for an actual campaign,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist.

Indeed, the Ready for Hillary PAC has been advertising its Clinton-themed merchandise as a great stocking stuffer this holiday season, serving both its financial and messaging goals.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois, who covered Iowa politics for more than three decades, said he never believed these groups were as separate from the candidates as they claim to be.

“They can give a so-called candidate visibility and a presence at party events without committing the candidate to a thing,” Mr. Yepsen said. “And, frankly, this is just one more example of how all this money sloshing around politics today changes things.

“With plenty of money around, consultants can make some money for themselves while also helping a candidate they believe in start developing lists and generating visibility,” he said.

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