Money Wars: Obama Dominates Fundraising Battle, Romney Bests GOP Rivals
(WASHINGTON) -- The general election is still 10 months away, but the most expensive election in U.S. history is well underway.
Campaign finance reports due Tuesday show the money race is on as GOP candidates fill their war chests for a fierce primary battle and President Obama stockpiles millions for the general election.
For the first time in presidential campaign history, super PACs have been thrown into the funding mix, and many posted huge fundraising numbers. With the ability to take unlimited donations, super PACs pulled in some six-figure contributions from a number of big-name donors.
Here's a rundown of who's winning the money game and how much the candidates and the super PACs that support them raked in for 2011:
The Obama Campaign: $39.9 million
President Obama was the big winner in the fundraising game in both the most recent filing period and in 2011 as a whole. His official campaign brought in nearly $40 million from October through December, beating the top two GOP candidates' totals combined. Obama for America raised a whopping $139.5 million in 2011.
After spending $19.5 million in the past four months of 2011, the Obama campaign has $81.8 million cash on hand and is $3 million in debt.
The Romney Campaign: $24.2 million
While Mitt Romney's totals fell far behind Obama's, the GOP front-runner brought in twice as much money as the next highest GOP fundraiser, Ron Paul. From October through December, Romney raised $24.2 million, bringing his total fundraising this cycle to $56.8 million.
Unlike his likely general election rival, Romney's campaign has no debts. It had nearly $20 million cash on hand and spent $18.7 million in the final months of 2011.
Restore Our Future: $17.9 million
The pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, raised more than any other GOP candidate, besides Romney, in the final months of 2011. The group, which can collect unlimited donations, brought in $17.9 million from October through December.
After spending $6.5 million, much of which was on ads attacking Newt Gingrich in Florida and New Hampshire, Restore Our Future had $23.6 million cash on hand at the close of 2011.
Some of the super PACs' largest donors were hedge-fund managers, three of which -- Paul Singer, Robert Mercer and Julian Robertson -- gave $1 million. William Koch, one of the infamous billionaire Koch brothers, who often donate to conservatives, gave the pro-Romney Super PAC $250,000 under his personal name and another $750,000 under his company's name.
The owner of Big Boy Restaurants International LLC gave $25,000 and the chairman of the Tribune Co. gave $50,000.
The Paul Campaign: $13.3 million
The fourth-highest fundraiser was the Ron Paul campaign, which collected $13.3 million from October through December, bringing Paul's total fundraising to $25.4 million in 2011.
Paul spent about $15 million during the past four months of 2011 as the GOP race was in full tilt heading into the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus, where Paul finished a close third. The Paul campaign had no debt and nearly $2 million cash on hand at the close of 2011.
The Cain Campaign: $11.5 million
Although his presidential bid is now just a memory splashed with 9-9-9, Herman Cain's campaign posted big fundraising numbers before he dropped out of the GOP race Dec. 3. From October through December Cain raised $11.5 million, nearly three times as much as he gathered during the first eight months of 2011.
After spending $11.8 million during the final months of 2011, Cain ended both his presidential aspirations and the year with $986,000 in cash on hand and about half a million dollars in debt.
The Gingrich Campaign: $9.8 million
The past four months of 2011 were not high points on the Gingrich polling radar. Therefore, the $9.8 million he pulled in from October through December did not capture the momentum, or money, he captured following his Jan. 21 win in the South Carolina primary.
Gingrich ended 2011 with $2.1 million in cash and $1.2 million in debts after spending $8 million over the closing months of last year.
Winning Our Future: $2 million
The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future was a latecomer to the presidential candidate support game, not officially forming until Dec. 13. With the Federal Election Commission financial disclosure deadline Dec. 31, this most recent filing likely does not capture the super PAC's full fundraising capability.
In the two weeks it was raising money, Winning Our Future collected $2 million and spent $910,000. At the close of 2011, it had $1.2 million cash on hand.
Despite new campaign finance laws allowing super PACs to collect unlimited funds from corporations, not one business donated to the Winning Our Future super PAC in 2011. The three largest donors each gave $50,000.
One of those big hitters-- Harold Simmons, the chairman and CEO of Dallas-based manufacturing holding company Contran Corp.-- also contributed $1 million to the pro-Rick Perry super PAC.
Priorities USA: $1.02 million
While President Obama blew the GOP candidates out of the water in 2011 fundraising, the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA fell to the back of the pack. The group pulled in slightly more than $1 million in the last half of 2011, bringing its yearly total to $4.2 million.
Priorities USA ended the year with $1.5 million cash on hand after spending $1.5 million over the last quarter. Nearly all the group's donors were individuals, although two organizations donated large sums.
The Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education gave half a million dollars in the last half of 2011, matching an earlier $500,000 donation and bringing its total contributions to $1 million. The American Association for Justice PAC contributed $50,000. And Hollywood director Steven Spielberg donated $100,000.
The Santorum Campaign: $920,000
Rick Santorum is the only candidate still in the GOP race who raised less than $1 million in the final four months of 2011. The Santorum campaign brought in $920,000 from October through December.
This low total does not reflect the momentum Santorum gained from his win in the Iowa caucus, after which his campaign reported collecting $1 million in 24 hours.
Santorum spent $826,000 in the last quarter of 2011, much of which he spent traversing Iowa from town hall to coffee shop meet-and-greet. He ended the year with $279,000 cash on hand.
Red White and Blue Fund: $729,000
The pro-Santorum super PAC raised slightly less than the candidate it supports, collecting $729,000 from October through December. The Red White and Blue fund spent $651,000 over the same time period and ended the year with $78,000 cash on hand.
Nearly half of the group's money came from one donor, Foster Friess, a Wyoming investor who gave $331,000 to the super PAC.
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