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Report to Show Romney Fortune's Bigger Role

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By Matthew Mosk and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 30, 2007

When former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney closes the books on his latest campaign finance report today, it will reveal a slow but steady shift from a candidacy built on thousands of individual donations to one relying increasingly on his own personal fortune.

Top Romney advisers said last week that they expected his campaign to raise almost $40 million in the first nine of months this year. And though they have not released a firm figure, they expected that Romney will have supplemented those contributions with nearly $15 million of his own money.

Romney's candidacy has quietly morphed into one of the nation's first hybrid campaigns for a major-party presidential nomination: one that is neither a traditional bid built on individual donations nor a self-funded effort such as those launched by billionaires Steve Forbes and Ross Perot.

"Romney is something different," said Jennifer A. Steen, a Boston College professor who has written a book on self-financed candidates.

That Romney is spending some of his personal fortune, estimated to be between $190 million and $250 million, in part reflects a decline in donations to his campaign. He led all of the GOP contenders in fundraising during the first three months of the year. But he relied in large part on maximum donations from business allies in Massachusetts, where he ran the venture capital company Bain Capital Partners, as well as from fellow Mormons in Utah, where Romney managed the 2002 Winter Olympics. His donations from those two states fell sharply between April and June.

Romney's personal money has helped him avoid the plight of another White House contender, Sen. John McCain, who found himself laying off staff in July while Romney was able to air ads in key primary states. His spending is a more dramatic and expansive version of what then-candidate John F. Kerry did in December 2003, when the Democratic senator from Massachusetts lent his campaign more than $6 million in a last-ditch effort that helped him win the Iowa caucuses.

Romney launched his campaign with a showy Jan. 8 event at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, placing 400 of his biggest supporters in front of phones and asking them to devote the day to raising money from friends and contacts around the country. The event yielded $6.5 million, a huge haul for a single day's effort.

Ron Kaufman, a top Romney adviser who attended the event, said it sent a powerful message to potential supporters who might have wondered whether Romney would simply run on his personal fortune.

"As self-funding, big-spending candidates have proven, it doesn't get you anything," Kaufman said. "The bottom line is: The way to be a candidate for president is prove you can put the organization together, prove to the voters that you've earned the right to be a serious candidate for president. You've got to earn it; you can't buy it."

After that event, Romney punctuated that message, telling reporters that it would be "akin to a nightmare" if he were forced to contribute much of his own money to his presidential effort.

By the end of the first fundraising quarter, which closed on March 31, he had posted a headline-grabbing $21 million total, helping to vault him into the top tier of candidates seeking the GOP nomination.

That figure was critical to establishing Romney as a viable candidate. As almost an afterthought, the campaign revealed that the candidate had also put $2.4 million into his campaign account. When asked about it by a Boston Globe reporter, an aide stressed that the money was a loan to the campaign, not a gift.


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