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WASHINGTON – By effectively clinching the Republican nomination last month, Mitt Romney’s campaign was able to marshal larger checks and chip into President Obama’s huge head start in the money chase heading into the general election.
Romney still has a long way to go. According to campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission during the weekend, Obama maintains a very large advantage in cash on hand. His reelection effort ended April with $147 million in the bank, compared with a reported $61.4 million for Romney and the Republican National Committee
Romney, however, has begun to level the playing field thanks, in part, to a joint fundraising partnership with the Republican National Committee and several state party committees which began after he became the presumptive GOP nominee. Donors can give larger checks to party committees than to candidates – a technique Obama had been able to take advantage of for months.
For Romney, the joint fundraising operation brought in $40.1 million in April (including $11.4 million that went directly to the Romney campaign). That was nearly on par with the $43.6 million the Obama reelection effort jointly raised with the Democratic National Committee (including $25.7 million directly to the Obama campaign.).
Nevertheless, last month’s takes showed something of a lull, with the numbers down slightly for both the Obama and Romney main campaign accounts.
Romney spent $12.5 million last month, slightly more than what his campaign took in. Much of that money was spent in the pursuit of more money -- nearly $2.5 million went into direct mail appeals and another $1.7 million was spent on telemarketing pitches. The campaign also spent $900,000 on fundraising consulting.
The campaign also spent close to $2 million on placing ads
The Obama campaign, far more than Romney’s, has invested in its online presence. Obama spent more than $2.3 million last month on online advertising; Romney, just $150,000.
Payroll expenses revealed another disparity. Obama, who has invested heavily in field organizers in battleground states, spent $2.4 million on paying campaign staff, nearly five times what Romney spent on payroll.
The fundraising slowdown extended beyond the official campaigns to the outside groups advocating on their behalf. Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney group that, like other "super PACs," can solicit unlimited contributions from individuals, unions and corporations, raised $3.9 million in April, a more than 50% drop from the previous month. It ended April with $8.2 million in the bank.
Investors gave more than $1.7 million to Restore Our Future, with $1 million coming from Fort Worth hedge fund founder John Kleinheinz.
The group also brought in $1.1 million from energy executives, including $985,000 from Harold Hamm, the billionaire chairman of Continental Resources of Oklahoma, and the chairman of Romney’s energy advisory panel.
Hamm has given more than $210,000 to candidates for the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 96% of it to Republicans. Hamm also held a May 9 Romney fundraiser at his Oklahoma City home.
Hamm, 66, has been a harsh critic of the Obama administration’s energy policy, particularly the decision so far not to approve parts of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Continental owns some of the largest holdings in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana, which could be served by the northern part of the pipeline.
“Since President Obama’s election three and a half years ago, he and his administration have done everything in their power to stop fossil fuel usage,” he wrote in an opinion piece last March.
The filing also showed that some of the moneyed backers of other Republican presidential hopefuls have begun to migrate to Romney. Jack Caveney of North Palm Beach, Fla., a network company owner and a longtime Republican donor, gave $200,000 in February to Red White and Blue Fund, the super PAC supporting Rick Santorum; last month, he gave $100,000 to Restore Our Future.
But some of the biggest super PAC players have not yet come aboard. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate who, along with his family, dished out $21.5 million to a super PAC backing Newt Gingrich, did not give to Restore Our Future, despite hosting a dinner with Romney backers in late March, according to reports by the Center for Public Integrity.
Foster Friess, the prolific and public backer of the pro-Santorum super PAC, was also absent from Restore Our Future’s donor list.
Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Obama, had not submitted its filings as of early Sunday evening. It has typically lagged in fundraising compared with Restore Our Future and other conservative outside groups.