Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be positioning for a GOP… (Ann Johansson / For The Los…)
Reporting from Washington — At the same time Mitt Romney has unofficially begun his quest to win over the American public, he's also using a more direct approach to garner political support for his expected presidential bid: cold, hard cash.
Romney's political action committee has sent almost $130,000 to some notable GOP names in the Senate and House, including Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts; Bob Corker, Tennessee; and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl -- all of whom are up for reelection next year, as well as newcomers such as Illinois' Mark Kirk, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Brown, a longstanding supporter of Romney who may face a tough battle to keep his seat, received $10,000, the biggest check.
As far as House recipients go, the most interesting name on the list may be Rep. Connie Mack IV of Florida, who could challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) next year.
"We need to show our Republican friends that we appreciate their efforts to curb wasteful spending, lower taxes and bring down our staggering $14 trillion debt," Romney said in a statement. "Regaining majority control of the House of Representatives sent a powerful message that we will no longer tolerate business as usual on Capitol Hill, but it was just the first step."
The transfers, from Romney's Free and Strong America PAC, may have the added benefit of allowing Romney to burn off some funds in advance of forming a presidential campaign committee. Some of the PAC funds could be transferred to such a committee, but donors would be bound by federal contribution limits. All in all, the former Massachusetts governor has handed out more than $1 million to GOP candidates.
Romney insisted this week that he had not yet made a decision on whether to run for president, but his candidacy appears to be almost a certainty at this point. Four years ago, Romney announced his presidential bid in Michigan in mid-February.
According to Federal Election Commission records, between his federal committee and a network of state PACs, Romney had raised $6.3 million by the end of 2010, the most of any likely GOP entrant.
It's been a big week for Romney. After largely ceding the limelight to the likes of Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee, Romney launched a media blitz this week, appearing on ABC, CNN, Fox News and conservative radio programs. He even showed up on David Letterman's "Late Show" to give a list of "Top 10 Things You Don't Know About Mitt Romney." (No. 8: "I'm the guy in the photo that comes with your picture frame.")
Unlike other potential conservative presidential candidates, Romney has largely avoided criticizing the Obama administration over its handling of the crisis in Egypt and was one of the first Republicans to call for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
In another sign that 2012 isn't as far away as it might seem, the congressional campaign arm of the Democratic Party and a Republican third-party political action group, Crossroads GPS, already have gone on the radio in 19 House districts taken by Republicans last November. The Democratic ads warn voters that Republicans will eliminate jobs by cutting federal funds for education and research, while the Crossroads spots assail Democrats and favorite target Rep. Nancy Pelosi for reckless spending. Crossroads GPS spent nearly $40 million to support GOP candidates last year.