1st Quarter Fundraising: Paul = $3M, Bachmann = $2.2M, Romney = $1.9M
Recent headlines have been screaming that Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann outraised Romney in the first quarter: “They’ve toppled the Romney fundraising machine! What an upset!” …Except it isn’t. While Bachmann and Paul’s fundraising hauls are impressive, it makes no sense to compare their total fundraising numbers to Romney’s at this point for several reasons.First, Bachmann and Paul have federal candidate committees, because they are currently considered House candidates. These types of committees are golden for potential presidential candidates, because they are the only committees that can dump money directly into a future presidential account. Remember in the 2008 cycle when Hillary was raising all that money in her Senate account before she even declared she was running for president? Same thing. It makes a lot of sense for Bachmann and Paul to raise money into their re-election accounts because that is useable money in a Presidential race. Mitt Romney, however, isn’t a federal candidate, and so he can’t have a candidate account. Whatever money he raises right now is pretty useless for the 2012 race. Pretty much all he can do with that money is give it to other candidates and state parties — in a non-election year, that isn’t particularly helpful. Sure, he can dole it out to curry favor in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he can use it to travel to give speeches, but that’s about it. So, logically, Romney shouldn’t be trying to raise much money right now. If someone can only afford to give him a $100 donation, that $100 would be much better utilized once he has a Presidential Exploratory Committee up and running. I am on pretty much every Romney fundraising list there is, and I haven’t gotten any solicitations recently. I’ve only seen mention of a fundraiser that will take place in mid-May (surely, he’ll have announced by then and can put the money towards a 2012 bid). Romney is biding his time so he doesn’t burn out his donors before he really needs their money. Second, the comparison to Paul’s fundraising is particularly ridiculous. Most of Paul’s money was raised by a 501(c)(4) organization. That isn’t just like comparing apples to oranges, it is like comparing apples to snakes. A 501(c)(4) organization can take unlimited money from individuals, corporations, etc. It doesn’t have to disclose its donors. It doesn’t have to report to the FEC, and it can only do a limited amount of explicitly political activity. If Mitt Romney had a 501(c)(4) coupled with a federal PAC, I guarantee they would raise a lot more than $3 million dollars in a quarter. But he doesn’t have that particular set-up — it couldn’t help his Presidential campaign, so there is no point.
Finally, all of this hubbub about small donor fundraising is nice, but it can’t be confirmed yet. Although all the committees have released their total fundraising numbers to the press, they don’t have to report any details to the FEC until April 15 (and Paul’s 501(c)(4) never has to report to the FEC).
So, although Paul and Bachmann’s number are impressive, and are a good indication that they are both planning a Presidential run, comparing them to Romney’s numbers this quarter is pointless. Wait until next quarter — I’m confidently predicting that once Romney declares he’s in, and actually powers up the Romney machine, the money race will change quite a bit.
Written by MRC guest contributor, Audrey Perry.
Audrey Perry is a campaign and elections lawyer who worked as Deputy General Counsel for Romney in ’08. Her main tasks were getting Mitt on the ballot in all 50 states (and of course DC, Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico), and counting lots and lots of delegates. After Romney dropped out of the race, she worked as counsel for McCain-Palin where she tried to get campaign staff to abide by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, insisted all yard signs have proper disclaimers, and tried to shut down ACORN in Las Vegas. She has also worked for Congress, Steve Poizner, the FEC and other various law firms and campaigns. Audrey currently works at the Sacramento election law firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk and blogs about politics and the law at www.legallypolitical.com.