Romney’s Big Fundraising Month and the Culture of Political Giving

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Kayana Szymczak / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participates during the Wolfeboro Independence Day parade on July 4, 2012 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney had a banner month in June. His campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $106 million, marking a large post-primary consolidation of Republican funds, and a full $35 million more than President Obama and the Democrats managed to raise. We don’t have their official filings yet, but here’s what we do know: Something’s changing in the world of campaign finance.

In June 2008, Democrats raised a similar figure to this year’s tally, but John McCain and the RNC only took in $48 million. That was a grim year for Republicans, still living in the shadow of George W. Bush’s presidency and McCain didn’t exactly ignite conservative passions. But by most accounts, neither does Romney. And yet the Porsches are lining up in the Hamptons like never before. What’s going on?

(VIDEO: Governor Mitt Romney Talks to TIME)

One possible explanation is that donors are animated by the prospects of defeating an incumbent they don’t like. That’s certainly true for many Republicans, and it has historical precedent–John Kerry used Democratic anger at Bush to out-raise the incumbent in the spring of 2004 after wrapping up his own primary. But that kind of sentiment isn’t the complete picture. Incumbents usually excel at fundraising because donors are often more interested in access to the halls of power than any particular ideology. Sitting Presidents already have the power, and win re-election more often than not.

So does that mean that donors are placing their bets on Romney because they don’t think Obama will be re-elected in an especially bad economy? It’s hard to say, but the online market at InTrade, a fairly reliable gauge of elite conventional wisdom (even if that wisdom is reliably wrong), doesn’t reflect that theory. It has the President’s re-election chances at 56%.

Part of the fundraising equation is the candidate himself. Romney knows how to talk to wealthy captains of industry because he’s one himself. He speaks yacht. McCain was probably more comfortable in a VFW hall than on a walled estate with Randolph and Mortimer Duke, and his history with campaign finance reform didn’t help. He actively rebuked “soft money” gifts, while Romney invites them. And that’s an important part of something bigger.

(PHOTOS: On the Trail with Romney)

There seems to be a cultural shift under way, the same one that’s driving money to conservative super PACs while Democratic operatives scrounge for scraps. Dems have traditionally relied on more small-dollar donations; without looking at the FEC filings, I’m guessing that Romney’s lead is mostly fueled by large gifts, although his campaign says $22.3 million of June’s total came in donations of $250 or less, a larger percentage than during primary months, albeit still trailing Obama’s numbers in recent filings. Some of the people who give these large gifts are the same ones funding Republican super PACs.

This isn’t the Citizens United scenario campaign finance reform advocates warned about, where secretive donors funnel their money to outside groups through shell corporations. Republican donors are prouder than ever of their wealth and its political utility to Republican groups, official and unoffical. Anecdotes from Romney’s weekend fundraising junket in the Hamptons suggest that they can’t wait to tell people about it.

“He is a socialist. His idea is find a problem that doesn’t exist and get government to intervene,” Mr. [Ted] Conklin said from inside a gold-colored Mercedes as his wife, Carol Simmons, nodded in agreement.

Ms. Simmons paused to highlight what she said was her husband’s generous spirit: “Tell them who’s on your yacht this weekend! Tell him!”

(MORE: Among Romney Super PAC’s Corporate Donors, Big Names Not All Easy to Spot)

Democratic donors just don’t feel the same way. Liberal hand-wringing over the effects of money on politics after the Citizens United decision seems to have made them more hesitant to give. It makes them feel icky. Compare the Conklin yacht story with this one from the Times , in which two representatives of a Democratic super PAC woo a donor aboard his boat.

[Bill] Burton and [Paul] Begala climbed aboard the outsize Mostyn vessel, All or Nothing, and the attractive first mate handed them cans of Michelob Ultra. A four-hour conversation ensued. [Steve] Mostyn and his wife, Amber (who is also an attorney), were congenial but blunt. They were not fans of super PACs — political action committees that can receive unlimited donations from individuals, corporations and unions, usually for the purpose of saturating the airwaves with attack ads — and were appalled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which made such entities possible. For that matter, the Mostyns weren’t entirely happy with Obama.

The President still has plenty of wealthy donors, especially among the Hollywood glamour and Silicon Valley nerd chic sets. And there are other factors to the overall fundraising numbers: The Obama campaign worries about complacency, as evidenced by their frequent reminders in fundraising emails that the campaign finance cards are stacked against them, and the official fundraising tally may list back in Obama’s direction after election really heats up. Despite Kerry’s fundraising surge in the spring of 2004, Bush outspent him by $40 million in the end. But Romney’s super PAC money and the culture of political giving on the right has changed the balance of power in an incumbent election. $106 million in June is just a small taste of what’s to come.

MORE: Rupert Murdoch, Mitt Romney and the Aztec Sacrifice Ritual

47 comments
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Richard Giles
Richard Giles

I have never been a Democrat.  After serving in the Marine Corps I voted for JFK in my first presidential election and never again for a Democrat until voting against GWBush.  Actually I was a registered Republican probably for more years than a lot of those posting here have lived.  Admittedly I was an independent Republican as I abstained rather than ever voting for Nixon.  Now I consider myself an Independent and I’m currently registered without declaring a party.  Why the drastic change?

To tell the truth, I really can’t see how any member of the majority can be rational and objective and stay committed to the Republican / Tea Party.  Bush-Cheney, with their irresponsible and total commitment to using their offices and America’s resources for a private agenda to benefit “the few”, their strong supporters and masters, really did it for me and ever since the Republican Party has continued that alienation with the same, or worse, mentality and are now simply literally owned and controlled by the money.  It isn’t whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a Libertarian or whatever, I won’t fault those individual values, those philosophies as they are personal and valid, but what is flagrantly clear is that the Republicans have completely abandoned the majority, the middle-class, and have become “puppets” to serve the money ... anyone in the 99% majority that supports them is not only being self-delusional but also self-punishing.  

With the power, influence and money provided by the 1% who “pull their strings”, they are cocky confident, stubborn and arrogant as they think they can con, use and abuse the people.   They have become emboldened by past successes with the manipulation of the “conservative” Christian (2000), the Swift-boat propaganda (2004), the Tea Party movement (2010) and even recently with the mega-millions spent in the Wisconsin recall, all being well designed, well organized and well funded efforts to control voters.  Now with the likes of Norquist, Cheney, Rove, the Koch brothers, SuperPacs and other billionaires they seek to continue their success, using their abundant funds to bombard the country with their propaganda and once more con the people and manipulate public opinion.  No one has to take anyone else’s word for it, it only takes recognizing reality by putting aside emotions, biases, prejudices, fears and loyalties to avoid being conned and to then rationally and objectively take a look.

Bush-Cheney were obvious and cost us greatly.  The full Republican Party totally supported all of that and continued with more of the same.  In the last twelve years the Republicans haven’t given the majority anything more than propaganda while insultingly taking them for granted as “pawns” to be used and abused.  They have constantly, irresponsibly catered to “the money”: with favorable policies; denying global warming to allow corporate pollution; blocking bringing American drugs back into the country to protect corporate profits; maintaining substantial oil subsidies; arrogantly faulting and stubbornly blocking all efforts without contributing anything; putting their political ambitions above all else; abandoning Afghanistan to attack Iraq; protecting the Bush-Tax Cuts for the wealthy; on and on propagandizing everything as “conservative” and attacking government spending, the deficit and “big government” as “liberal” and the problems.  Well reality is that while reducing spending and cutting the deficit are good causes, they don’t address what caused our problems; what has repeatedly caused our problems is exploitation by the few, encouraged and allowed by politicians catering to “the money”.  All of it stands to continue to cost the 99% as the 1% feed their insatiable “more” (never enough) appetite and it is all there for anyone who honestly wants to see it.

Altold
Altold

Captains of industries are always exploiting the common citizen, Romney is one of them. Take note.

John Luma
John Luma

Of course the Republicans expect to outspend the Dems. Otherwise the oil companies might lose some of their tax breaks, the rich might have their 15% capital gains taxes go up, their companies might have to bring jobs back to the U.S. and their for-profit HC system might never get back to fleecing those it covers and rejecting those that might actually NEED some care. A lot hangs in the balance for the conservative-based Republicans now. 

3xfire3
3xfire3

John,

You're being hypocritical. Democrats out spent Republicans by a large number in 2008 and I didn't hear you complaining.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

The fact of the matter is that if voters trust you and connect to your message they will donate to your campaign. If they don't they won't. Americans are voting with their wallets and the Dems don't like it.

NicHautamaki
NicHautamaki

1 billion dollar wallet is worth millions of ordinary wallets.  Is that how the democratic process is really supposed to work?  I think Republicans would be crying bloody murder if Warren Buffet and Bill Gates got together and decided to throw 30 billion dollars into democrat reelection coffers.  You want any 2 men deciding how to run this country by themselves, or are you only happy when it's the Koch brothers doing it?

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

In the 2008 election Obama and the Dems raised almost the same money that Romney and the Repubs raised last month. At the time, the Dems equated this to the enthusasim and engagement the people had for the candidate Obama. We didn't hear a word from Obama's opposition. Now that Romney and the Repubs are doing the exact same thing we are supposed to believe there is some nefarious purpose at work here. Do your research. 94% of Romney's donations have come from small donors. Maybe if you used the same standards for Repubs and Dems the rest of us could take your comments seriously.

3xfire3
3xfire3

Fastgirl,

Don't use facts. That's unfair to liberals.

ChowT
ChowT

Mitt Romney for sale plus a dog on the roof for free.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Romney loves big money, big money loves Romney. There is no room for the American people in that mix.

mnominous
mnominous

Hey Dan, I read several of your post and I am surprised on your view on this one. You seem to have it together.  

All of a sudden it has become shameful to be wealthy in the US. All of sudden we care more about the money the other guy makes not the one we have. Well, I come from Socialist Europe. Guess what, there are no jobs. It has never being roomy in Europe. There is a recession in the US, and after years of economic affluence Democrats decide to use the deep to convince us all things were bad and we should become socialist.

There is and shouldn't be any shame in making lots of money. In the process, those who do must create jobs. No way around it.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Not shameul to be wealthy, but it is shameful to be greedy. Romney is greedy, and wants to institute policies that will favor greed among those who have big money.

mnominous
mnominous

If by greed you mean taking it to the extreme where it is illegal, I agree. Otherwise, greed is good. Greed moves money. Greed brings more capital and more from where to tax. I disagree. There is nothing wrong with greed as long as it is done within the confines of the law.

3xfire3
3xfire3

"The President still has plenty of wealthy donors, especially among the Hollywood glamour and Silicon Valley nerd chic sets. And there are other factors to the overall fundraising numbers: The Obama campaign worries about complacency, as evidenced by their frequent reminders in fundraising emails that the campaign finance cards are stacked against them, and the official fundraising tally may list back in Obama’s direction after election really heats up."

Let's not forget that Obama had a $150,000,000 month during 2008. Of course he now has a record to run on and that appears to be a major part of the problem.

Many independents and moderates who supported him in 2008 do not like his policies and the direction he is taking our country and are choosing to support Romney or are tacking a neutral stance.

I think Obama has some major problems in being re-elected.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"There seems to be a cultural shift under way, the same one that’s driving money to conservative super PACs while Democratic operatives scrounge for scraps"

Yeah, the "cultural shift," is toward naked psychopathy among rich "conservative" Republicans with a good dose of shameless class warfare and a tinge of racism thrown in. They've figured out that they're completely unaccountable for their crimes of selfish greed and malfeasance and they've rationalized why they deserve to be the lions and us the lambs - they're better and smarter than us; not just morally bankrupt and unscrupulous, playing a rigged game.

3xfire3
3xfire3

shep,

You are a true marxist wacko. Do you really believe the garbage you throw out?

Steve0T
Steve0T

 You are a im_becile dittohead. You definitely believe the crap that comes out of Limbaugh's backside.

3xfire3
3xfire3

Steve,

 

Read shep's comment and tell me it doesn't sound like something that Karl Marx would have said.

Be honest.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

So does that mean that donors are placing their bets on Romney because

they don’t think Obama will be re-elected in an especially bad economy?

The plutocrats are going to win, heads or tails, Sorensen.

And the rest of us will lose, again.

~

lreed580
lreed580

There isn't any amount of money that can buy Romney a decent debate performance.

NicHautamaki
NicHautamaki

Obviously favorable reviews and spin are and will remain for sale though.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Bribing focus groups.  You didn't think of that did ya???

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

If this national party thing doesn't work out for the Republicans they ought to consider taking on a full-time gig as a lobbying group for the rich. There may be tax advantages in it.

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

 

Is there any doubt that a Romney administration would favor

the rich and increase the income gap in our country?  Mitt is a pariah in Mormon Clothing and will

stop at nothing to expand an empire of greed for the rich in this country.  Can his sacred Mormon underwear gain him

enough donations to buy this election? 

See for yourself as Mitt dons his tighty-whities from the Good Lord

Himself at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot...

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

Funny how this wasn't an issue to the moonbats when the Obama campaign was talking about raising $1 billion.

NicHautamaki
NicHautamaki

Because Obama was doing it largely with small donations that accurately reflect how the democratic process is supposed to work, not an elite club of billionaires deciding which figurehead will continue to better rig the process in their and their children's favor.

ChowT
ChowT

not from pirate capitalism.

3xfire3
3xfire3

Kevin,

Liberals can't handle the truth. Notice how they change the subject.

happydayfortennis
happydayfortennis

Maybe you've been watching a little bit too much Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. The non-moonbats.

PS. You should really change your facebook privacy settings.

Tero1
Tero1

Still making a fool of yourself I see... still pretending to be a marine?

3xfire3
3xfire3

Tero,

"Still making a fool of yourself I see... still pretending to be a human being?"

bobell
bobell

From the bobell DickShunNary of the Anguish Languish:

"Moonbat" -- Anyone who disagrees with Kevin Groenhagen.

"Kevin Groenhagen" -- The one actual moonbat.

"SwampLand" -- An imaginary place haunted by imaginary moonbats (and one real one).

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

The one man refutation of 3x's

"Why Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals" link. 

jmac
jmac

One of Obama's bundlers from Hollywood, Weinstein (?), was on tv saying that the big progressive donors are holding back because they don't think Romney can win.   He said throwing money at a bad product doesn't necessarily mean that bad product will win an Oscar.   He ended by saying that if it looks like Obama needs the help - the help will be there.    

gysgt213
gysgt213

In all fairness only 90% of all income is going to Romney's high dollar donors.  I can see why they are pissed at Obama.

ChowT
ChowT

They are aiming for 1% makes 99% and 99 % makes 1%.

anon76returns
anon76returns

Then they'll be able to wave around the little "we are the 99%" signs too.  It'll just have a different meaning.

bobell
bobell

Mitt Romney -- The best Republican candidate money can buy.

And boy, is it buying him!  A few more hundreds of millions and he'll be in favor of no taxes for the rich and no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., for the poor (as if he isn't close to those positions already).  Freedom for all (mostly freedom from enough money to live on).

Mitt knows which side of his gold bullion has caviar on it.

ChowT
ChowT

Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate of the rich, by the rich for the rich.

If Mitt Romney becomes president more workers will be sacked to please wall street.

Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

That's the type of comment an airhead would offer.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

If that were so, Kevin, you would have offered it first!

bobell
bobell

And yours is the type of comment a moonbat would offer.

Isn't it such great fun calling each other names?

Tero1
Tero1

Don't forget to call him a fraud. It is the most accurate label in his case.