October 6, 2007 in Nation/World

Romney putting personal millions into campaign

Jim Kuhnhenn Associated Press

Self-financed candidates

Several politicians have tapped their personal fortunes in recent times to run for office:

Steve Forbes: 1996 Republican presidential contest: $37.7 million (failed), 2000 Republican presidential contest: $38.7 million (failed).

Ross Perot: 1992 presidential contest: $63 million (failed), 1996 presidential contest: $8 million (failed).

Michael Bloomberg: 2001 New York city mayor: $74 million (won), 2005 New York city mayor: $85 million (won).

Jon Corzine: 2000 U.S. Senate, from New Jersey: $60 million (won).

Thomas Golisano: 2002 New York governor: $75 million (failed).

Figures are from the Federal Election Commission, the Institute on Money in State Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics.

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney once said financing his own campaign would be a “nightmare.” Writing checks, he said this week, is “painful.” It doesn’t seem to be stopping him.

Romney is his presidential campaign’s most generous supporter, lending $17.5 million from his personal fortune so far. His Republican rivals are bracing themselves for him to do it again. And again.

Romney is hardly the first presidential candidate to cut himself a check – Steve Forbes and Ross Perot spent far more than he has. But the businessman-turned-politician, who can raise money AND open his wallet, may have the best chance to win the presidency.

The former Massachusetts governor has two more shots at testing what his money can do to supplement his campaign’s finances and help him win the GOP nomination. The first is during the 90 days left before the early presidential contests of Iowa and New Hampshire. If he survives those, he can spend again in the last weeks of January before the make-or-break primaries in Florida, New York, California and New Jersey.

“The Romney strategy is very clear: win Iowa, get a bounce to New Hampshire, win New Hampshire and write yourself a check for the Feb. 5 states and start advertising,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns but is unaffiliated this election.

If Romney writes himself a sizable check in January, his spending might be evident, but the size of his contribution would not be a public record until mid-February, well after the nomination is likely to be sewn up. That could protect Romney from voters who would object to a candidate “buying” the nomination.

But Jennifer Steen, a political scientist at Boston College who has written extensively on self-financed candidates, believes the public doesn’t care if a wealthy candidate writes his campaign checks.

“What I’ve noticed is that it has been terribly frustrating for opponents of self-financers that their own outrage at self-financing is not shared by the voters,” Steen said

Compared with candidates like Forbes and Perot, Romney is a piker. Perot pumped $63 million into his failed 1992 presidential contest. Forbes contributed about $38 million in each of his unsuccessful White House bids, in 1996 and 2000.

Unlike those millionaires, Romney entered the presidential race with a political pedigree.

He had run for the Senate against Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and had been elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.

Overall, Romney has receipts of about $62 million, with $45 million raised from about 100,000 donors this year. That means he has dipped into his pocket for 28 percent of his total.

This year, Romney’s personal contributions have been increasing as his fundraising has been declining. In the first quarter, he lent his campaign $2 million. In the next three months, he put in $6.85 million. This summer, he contributed $8.5 million. Meanwhile, his donations dropped from $21 million in the first three months to $10 million this past quarter.

Advisers say he is prepared to give to his campaign as long as it seems reasonable he can win.

Romney faces no great personal risk in supporting his candidacy. His assets are estimated at between $190 million and $250 million – or, as he has described it, “a bloomin’ fortune.”

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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