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Republican Governors Flex Their Fundraising Muscle

Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has helped the group raise a record $20 million this year.
Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has helped the group raise a record $20 million this year. (By Paul Sancya -- Associated Press)

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By Chris Cillizza and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Sunday, October 15, 2006

Casting aside its traditional image as a minor player in campaigns, the Republican Governors Association raised $8.5 million over the past three months and has now raked in $20 million in 2006 alone.

The RGA's haul from July 1 to Sept. 30 eclipsed the group's previous three-month fundraising record, set in the first quarter of this year, by more than $2 million. The association also passed its total yearly record for fundraising ($18 million) in the first nine months of the year. The Democratic Governors Association raised $5 million in the period and has collected nearly $14 million this year, roughly $1 million short of its all-time high.

Phil Musser, executive director of the RGA, said his organization has received several seven-figure checks from individuals, including Texas home builder Bob Perry, a major financial backer of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that attacked Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004.

Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.), the RGA chairman, has also tapped his vast fundraising network to benefit the group and leaned heavily on a handful of fellow governors, including Sonny Perdue (Ga.), Matt Blunt (Mo.) and Haley Barbour (Miss.).

"No one has worked harder than Mitt Romney to ensure the financial success of RGA," Musser said. "The results speak for themselves."

Until 2002, the RGA relied on the Republican National Committee's largess to fund its activities. The groups split after the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which banned the RNC -- but not the RGA -- from accepting large checks from individual contributors.

Since the split, the RGA has operated independently of the national party, making donations directly to campaigns as well as funding ads in individual states.

To date, the RGA has funded political ads in Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Nevada, Maine and Alaska; made major contributions to third-party groups in Colorado, Iowa and Arkansas; and directly contributed to candidates in seven states.

New Ad Questions a Silent Bush

A new, well-funded Democratic group looking to make a difference in the final weeks of the campaign has aired its first television advertisement.

The September Fund, a "527" group founded by Democratic Party operative Harold Ickes, plans to spend $10 million this fall. Last week its ad went up on CNN, and Erik Smith, the fund's president, said that spot and several others are going to air over the weekend in Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Iowa.

The ad begins with a man who stands in a park looking at a bush and asks, "So, what's our exit strategy from Iraq?"

The ad shuffles through people talking to the bush: "Why do our soldiers have to keep dying? What about affordable health care?"

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