Romney to Write Off Loans to Aid Party

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2008

MUSKEGON, Mich., July 17 -- Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will reclassify as a gift $45 million in loans he made to his campaign, his spokesman said Thursday, ensuring that he will not compete with presumptive GOP nominee John McCain for donations.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, has worked assiduously in recent months to repair relations with McCain after their bitter primary fight. Romney has raised money for McCain, appears on television touting his presidential qualifications and is considered a serious contender to be his running mate.

Romney's new political action committee, Free and Strong America, has also raised $940,000 since April, according to Federal Election Commission records, and he has held McCain fundraisers in the states where he has the strongest personal ties: Massachusetts, Michigan and Utah.

"Mitt Romney's priority right now is raising money for other Republicans and not trying to recoup the money into his own race," Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said. "At some point, the Romney loans will be reclassified as contributions."

Under federal election law, Romney will be able to raise only $250,000 to cover outstanding campaign debts after the GOP nomination is awarded in early September. Romney is estimated to be worth $190 million to $250 million.

In a news conference Thursday in Grand Haven, Mich., McCain said he was unaware of Romney's decision to write off his personal campaign loans, first reported in the Boston Globe. "I don't know anything about it," he told reporters. "That's the first I heard of it."

When asked whether Romney is interested in becoming McCain's running mate, Fehrnstrom said, "He expects to be campaigning for McCain as a supporter of the ticket and not as a member of the ticket."

But Kenneth M. Duberstein, who served as White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview that Romney's move will improve his position as a possible vice presidential pick.

"Mitt Romney's background in business, in economics and as a known quantity on the national stage gives him the freedom to not only forget about the personal loans, but a position as a senior person on the short list," he said.

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