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Obama's campaign attack on Romney was costly

President Obama's campaign spent $58 million in June, chiefly in TV advertising assailing his GOP rival's business record and personal finances. Romney spent less, but raised more than Obama.

July 21, 2012|By Matea Gold and Melanie Mason, Washington Bureau
  • Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, poured $10 million in June into Restore Our Future, a "super PAC" supporting Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, poured $10 million in… (Aaron Tam, AFP/Getty Images )

WASHINGTON — President Obama's sharp turn to the offensive against GOP challenger Mitt Romney last month came at a steep cost: nearly $58 million.

That's how much the president's reelection campaign burned through in June as it pounded Romney's business record and personal finances; its relentless television campaign alone cost $38 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

The expensive barrage came even as Romney and his affiliated party committees outraised Obama and his Democratic Party fundraising partners for the second month in the row, $106 million to $70 million.

Heading into July, Romney and his party allies were left with nearly $170 million on hand, while Obama and the Democrats had $147 million.

That disparity — along with a record-breaking $20.6-million haul in June by the pro-Romney "super PAC" Restore Our Future — underscored the momentum enjoyed by Republicans in the money race, a source of sharp anxiety among Democrats. Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Obama, also had its best fundraising month ever in June, but it notched just $6 million.

The early intensity of the presidential race was evident in last month's spending reports. Obama's campaign committee spent $12 million more than it raised in June, with heavy investments in payroll and polling. Its June spending easily eclipsed the nearly $45 million the reelection committee spent in May.

Romney also stepped up his spending significantly, plowing through $27 million, including $10.4 million on advertising. His campaign put significant resources into raising more money, as well: more than $8 million went to fundraising consulting and direct mail.

Overall, Obama and his party allies spent more than $70 million in June, nearly $20 million more than Romney and his affiliated committees.

But the fundraising race is not a simple match between Obama and Romney. This year, outside entities — super PACs and tax-exempt advocacy groups — have taken on an important role in the election because of their ability to raise unlimited sums of money. And they are largely favoring the GOP.

That advantage was highlighted by Restore Our Future's June fundraising — the biggest monthly haul yet for a super PAC — as it drew together a collection of conservative billionaires who have emerged as the biggest donors of 2012.

Its top patrons: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who together pumped $10 million into the organization in June. The Adelsons and their family are on track to be the biggest personal spenders of the cycle. They nearly single-handedly floated a super PAC backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the Republican primary campaign and altogether have plowed $36.5 million into super PACs this cycle.

Houston home builder Bob Perry gave Restore Our Future $2 million in June, bringing his donation to the group up to $6 million. And Palm Beach, Fla., energy executive William Koch donated $1 million through his company Oxbow Carbon, bringing to $3 million the total amount he and his companies have given the super PAC.

Restore Our Future also got $100,000 from Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, who came under the spotlight in May after the New York Times reported that a GOP ad maker pitched Ricketts an idea for a super PAC campaign attacking Obama for his past ties to a controversial pastor.

Also among the group's new donors: Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon and her husband, Vince, chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, who together put in $150,000.

A much smaller group of wealthy liberals gave money last month to Priorities USA Action, including actor Morgan Freeman, who put in $1 million. Chicago media company executive Fred Eychaner also gave $1 million.

But big Democratic donors have largely steered clear of the super PAC, focusing their efforts instead on raising money directly for Obama's campaign. So far, Obama's bundlers have brought in at least $143 million, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data provided by the campaign.

In the last three months, 107 new bundlers joined the effort, including longtime Democratic money man Terry McAuliffe, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy, private equity chief Hamilton James, tech investor Chris Sacca and Maryland Gov.Martin O'Malley. Together, they raised at least $14.6 million for the quarter.

Unlike Obama, Romney has declined to reveal the names of the fundraisers bundling checks for his campaign. But by law, he has to disclose the identities of lobbyists who are acting as bundlers.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the biggest lobbyist bundler for Romney so far has been Patrick J. Durkin, the Washington lobbyist for the British bank Barclays, which is currently under investigation as part of a global rate-fixing scandal. So far, Durkin has bundled $1.45 million for the GOP challenger, and is set to co-host a fundraiser for him in London next week.

Obama's campaign has its own connection to Barclays: Mark Gilbert, a Florida-based director at Barclays Wealth, has raised at least $500,000 for his reelection and last week hosted a Park City, Utah, fundraiser featuring Vice President Joe Biden.

matea.gold@latimes.com

melanie.mason@latimes.com

Joseph Tanfani in the Washington bureau and Times staff writer Doug Smith and Times researcher Maloy Moore in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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