Presidential race sees fundraising records broken


WASHINGTON – Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney and his allies raised $170.5 million €130.7 million in September, the campaign said on Monday, falling just short of the 2012 fundraising record set last month by Democratic rival President Barack Obama.

Republicans began October with $191.2 million cash-in-hand to be spent on advertising, get-out-the-vote efforts, staff, offices, rallies and other campaigning in the weeks before the November 6th election. Much of the haul, however, was not likely to directly benefit Mr Romney’s election bid.

Mr Obama and the Democratic national committee already have reported raising $181 million in September, the best mark so far in the most expensive presidential election campaign in US history. They did not disclose how much they had left in cash-on-hand.

September was the second consecutive month in which the Democrats out-raised Mr Romney’s team after three months of the Republicans leading the way.

It was also one of the toughest months for Mr Romney: his position weakened in the polls, first as a result of the new focus shifting to the Democratic Party convention and then to a secretly filmed video that showed him calling 47 per cent of Americans who pay no federal income tax “victims”.

Mr Romney regained his footing earlier this month when he delivered a strong performance against Mr Obama in the first presidential debate on October 3rd. Campaign officials said the debate kicked up donations and helped the Republican candidate gain on the incumbent in the polls.

Mr Obama has since regained a slim lead in the tight race. The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll yesterday showed him at 46 per cent compared with Mr Romney’s 43 per cent. “This race is tied,” Mr Obama said in an email to supporters asking for last-minute donations on Monday. “What we do over the next 22 days will determine not just the next four years, but what this country looks like for decades to come.”

Since Mr Romney became the party nominee in April, he and the RNC have fundraised together, pulling cash into their separate funds as well as a joint account known as the “Romney Victory”. Because the fund’s disclosures are released quarterly, much of the Republican cash had been sitting under wraps until Monday, when new filings showed that in the third quarter of the year, the joint fund raised $235.2 million, beating the second quarter haul of $140.3 million.

But most of that cash – at least $214.4 million – does not belong to the Romney campaign: a donor can only give $35,800 to benefit a candidate and the party and at most $5,000 of that can go into the candidate’s coffers.

Anything given beyond that amount to the Romney Victory fund is slated to benefit state Republican parties, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Reuters calculations showed that of all the money brought into the Romney Victory fund, only as much as $161.1 million belongs to the campaign, while at least $54.6 million is booked for state parties and congressional committees.

Mr Obama and the DNC also have a joint “Victory” fund but the campaign keeps the vast majority of its cash under its own control, affording it more flexibility in how and when to spend it.

Mr Romney’s financial operation has relied heavily on large cheques written by wealthy supporters, in contrast to the Obama campaign, which, though it has courted such donors, relies mostly on smaller contributions.

The Romney campaign continued to court large donors this week as some of the most influential of them gathered at a luxury hotel in Manhattan for a three-day “fall retreat” that started on Monday. The gathering was expected to include “special guests” including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, real estate magnate and reality TV star Donald Trump, and Oklahoma oilman and Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm.

– (Reuters)