J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr., chairman of Marriott International, and Richard Marriott, head of Host Hotels & Resorts, each gave $500,000 to Restore Our Future. A Marriott International spokesman said all such donations are personal and have no connection to the company.
Paulson, who made much of his fortune by betting on the housing market’s collapse, has decried the Dodd-Frank financial reform law as “a failure” and agrees with Romney that it should be repealed. He said in a statement: “We contribute to candidates and organizations that support U.S. economic growth and leadership.”
Super PACs were made possible by a 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on elections, yet only a handful of publicly held corporations have taken advantage of the opening so far. One of those is BE Aerospace, founded by Romney donor Amin Khoury, which gave $50,000 to Restore Our Future and has received at least $80 million in U.S. government contracts, federal data show.
The single largest known contributor in the 2012 campaign so far is Adelson, the billionaire chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., who gave $5 million this month to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC.
The group is, in many respects, a case study of the promise and pitfalls of super PACs: Founded and funded by Gingrich’s closest confidantes, Winning Our Future has grabbed headlines for its broad assault on Romney’s time at Bain, while also prompting Gingrich to distance himself from inaccuracies in the group’s ads.
“We shifted the whole debate before we even began spending any money,” boasted Rick Tyler, a longtime Gingrich aide who now serves as senior adviser to the super PAC. “Our ads are scheduled to be interrupted only by more of our ads.”
Spokesman Ron Reese said Adelson gave money to the group because of “a long-documented personal relationship” with Gingrich. He also said Adelson does not expect any special treatment if Gingrich reaches the White House.
“He’s hopeful that Speaker Gingrich would be elected president and that maybe he would be invited to the White House Hanukkah party,” Reese said. “That’s it. There are no expectations.”
Three candidates who left the GOP race in recent weeks each had at least one super PAC championing their cause. A group favoring Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) switched its support to Romney, while one backing Herman Cain has gone dormant. A spokesman for Our Destiny PAC, the pro-Huntsman group, did not respond to requests for comment on the group’s plans.
Democrats also are taking advantage of the loosened campaign finance environment. Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC, received a $2 million donation from Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and $500,000 from media magnate Fred Eychaner, who co-hosted a Chicago fundraiser for Obama last week.
A group called the Red, White and Blue Fund, was recently formed to bolster Santorum, who finished just eight votes behind Romney in the Iowa caucuses but lagged in New Hampshire. The group, which has bought at least $800,000 worth of ads in South Carolina, is funded in part by Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based mutual fund manager and longtime supporter of conservative and evangelical causes.
When asked what he expects in return for his financial support, which could reach $1 million, Friess joked in an interview that “I have my heart set on an ambassadorship to Zimbabwe.”
“In all my years of giving, I’ve never asked a politician for any particular favors or anything,” Friess continued. “I’ve just asked for them to support the principles of the Founding Fathers and the values that made this nation great.”
Friess added: “I do want something desperately: I want my country back.”
Staff writer T.W. Farnam contributed to this report.