Obama Leads in January Campaign Contributions, but Super PAC Trails Republicans

 @ashleyportero on February 21 2012 5:33 PM
Barack Obama
As gasoline prices rise around the country, topping $4 per gallon in many cities, President Barack Obama faces increasing pressure about his long-term energy policy. In his weekly radio address, Obama said that stronger auto mileage standards set under his administration, and better-built cars made in the U.S., will help Americans save money in the long term. Reuters

The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA raised only $59,000 in January, considerably less than any of the organizations backing the president's Republican rivals, according to a report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

However, while the pro-Obama group received considerably less funding than similar organizations backing the four GOP presidential contenders, President Barack Obama's official re-election campaign received more than four times more direct donations than his closest competitor, Mitt Romney's.

The pro-Romney Restore Our Future raised $6.6 million in January, most of it continued support from at least 30 repeat donors, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the pro-Rick Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund took in $2.1 million in January, the Ron Paul-supporting Endorse Liberty raised $2.3 million, and Winning Our Future, which supports Newt Gingrich, raised a considerable $11 million.

Super PACs Boosted by a Few Donors

While the super PACs supporting the Republicans raised considerably more than Priorities USA, FEC filings indicate the spending groups raised a majority of their funds from a small number of wealthy donors.

For instance, while Winning Our Future raked in more in January than it did in all of 2011 almost all of it -- $10 million -- came from two donors -- the billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. Texas billionaire Harold Simmons donated another $500,000.

Winning Our Future, which did not form until Dec. 13, only raised $2 million in 2011. Although campaign finance laws allow super PACs to collect unlimited funds from corporations, the pro-Gingrich group did not receive any business donations in December. Instead, a large portion of its funding came from a handful of huge contributions, including an additional $50,000 from Simmons.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of the $2.3 million raised by Endorse Liberty last month came from one man: Peter Thiel, the co-founder of the online payment service PayPal, who gave the pro-Paul group $1.7 million.

Of the $2.1 million raised by the Red, White and Blue Fund last month, $1 million came from the Louisiana energy executive William Dore, while another $660,000 was contributed by the mutual fund investor Foster Friess.

Even a majority of the comparatively small sum collected by Priorities USA came from one wealthy donor. John W. Rogers of the Chicago-based Ariel Capital, whom The Washington Post reports is a longtime Obama donor and campaign bundler, donated $50,000 to the group last month.

In addition, $2 million of the $4.4 million raised by Priorities USA in the entirety of 2011 came entirely from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is also one of Obama's top fundraising bundlers.

Although Obama had held a longstanding objection to PACs and super PACs, earlier this month his re-election campaign advised donors to contribute to Priorities USA in an effort to stay competitive with his Republican opponents.

This cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in a message posted on the White House Web site. With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.

Obama Campaign Drew Four Times as Many Donors as Romney

While pro-Obama super PACs may be trailing their Republican counterparts, Obama's re-election committee was immensely successful last month.

The campaign, along with the Democratic National Committee, raised a staggering $29.1 million in January alone, 98 percent of which the Obama campaign said came from donations of $250 or less. That is more than four times more than the $6.5 million the Romney campaign raised last month, according to his FEC disclosures.

Meanwhile, the other GOP candidates' campaign took in even less. The Gingrich campaign brought it in $5.6 million in January, presumably due to a flood of contributions the candidate received after his surprising win in the South Carolina primary. Ron Paul's presidential brought in $4.5 million -- almost half of which consisted of donations of $200 or less - while the Santorum campaign raised $4.5 million, a huge boost considering his campaign got only about $2.2 million in all of 2011.

Still, almost all of the Republican campaigns spent a majority of what they actually raised last month, demonstrating how much they may be relying on super PACs to cover costly media buy expenses.

Although the Romney campaign has raised approximately $63.7 million since 2011, it had a campaign bank account balance of only $7.7 million on Jan. 31. The Gingrich campaign had $1.8 million in the bank at the end of January, but owed almost the same amount --$1.7 million -- in debts, while Santorum had $1.5 million left and Paul had $1.6 million.

In comparison the Obama Victory Fund, which raised a massive $125 million in 2011, had $76 million in cash on hand going into February.

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