Romney doles out nearly $130K to House and Senate Republicans

Fresh off outraising every potential GOP White House contender last year, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is heaping money on Republicans in the House and Senate. 

Romney's Free and Strong America PAC donated nearly $130K to Republicans on Thursday, including donations to four GOP senators who are up for reelection in 2012 and another 10 whose seats aren't up until 2016. 

Romney's largest donation Thursday — $10,000 — went to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). He also gave $5,000 each to Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), John Barrasso (Wy.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.). 

Among the others Romney's PAC donated to are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Neither senator faces reelection until 2016, but both hail from key early primary states. 

The PAC also donated $2,000 each to an additional 37 House Republicans. 

For Romney, the donations are both a continuation of his pattern during the 2010 election cycle and an early reminder to potential White House hopefuls of his hefty bank account. 

A review of his committee's FEC filings show that during 2010, Romney donated to the campaigns of more than 70 Republican congressional candidates, giving to the overwhelming majority of those who make up the new freshman class in the House.  

Romney raised a total of $6.3 million between his federal and state-based political action committees in 2010, ending the year with $1.4 million in cash on hand. It was easily the largest total of any rumored hopeful. 

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's PAC, in comparison, raised $3.5 million during 2010, ending the year with $1.3 million in cash on hand.


Sen. Bill Nelson starts cycle with $3 million in the bank

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is sitting on a war chest of just over $3 million heading into the 2012 election cycle, raising $260K in the final quarter of 2010. 

Nelson's cash-on-hand number places him at the top among Senate Democrats staring down tough reelection contests in 2012. 

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jim Webb (Va.) all reported less than $1.5 million on hand to start the year.  

Most of the early numbers don’t measure up to those several of their Senate colleagues posted ahead of the past cycle. At the start of 2009, Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) all had more than $2.5 million in cash on hand.

Nelson will need every penny and more next year to fend off what's expected to be a strong Republican challenge, but he starts in solid financial shape. 

Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos has already jumped into the race, with Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and former Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) also weighing bids. 

Mack raised just $17K between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31, according to his year-end filing with the Federal Election Commission. Mack reported $409K in cash on hand.  


House committees start 2012 carrying large debt

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee starts the 2012 election cycle still carrying $19 million of debt after a brutal election cycle that saw Republicans pick up 63 seats and reclaim the House majority. 

The DCCC reported $805,000 cash on hand to end the year and raised $1.68 million between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31. 

It's not a great start for the party's House campaign arm, but its Republican counterpart also begins the year with a sizable debt. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee reported $10.5 million in debt in its year-end filing to the Federal Election Commission. The committee has paid off some $1.5 million of its debt since Election Day.  

The NRCC ended the year with $2.5 million cash on hand -- a sizable edge over the DCCC -- but managed to just outraise Dems between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31, pulling in $1.88 million. 


Palin PAC with $1.3 million on hand

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's (R) political action committee (PAC) finished 2010 with just over $1.3 million cash on hand, pulling in some $275,000 during the final six weeks of the year. 

The rumored presidential candidate spent close to $229,000 over the same period, mostly on consulting services, travel and salary, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

{mosads}In all, Sarah PAC raised $3.5 million during 2010 and doled out more than $460,000 to Republican candidates and causes across the country over the past election cycle. 

There were no political donations made by the committee during the final six weeks of the year, though the report shows two checks that weren't cashed. One was a $2,500 donation to the campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.); the other was $5,000 to Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.). 

The PAC's treasurer, Tim Crawford, told The Associated Press that the checks were likely lost in the mail and that the committee stopped payment on them. 

Palin reported raising more than $469,000 during the FEC's previous reporting period. From mid-December through the end of November 2010, Palin's totals topped the federal PAC hauls of every other rumored 2012 Republican presidential hopeful.


Rep.-elect Jeff Denham defends controversial fundraiser for GOP freshmen

Rep.-elect Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) is pushing back against criticism of a Tuesday night fundraiser to raise money for newly-elected GOP members of the House, saying it doesn't conflict with the party's anti-Washington message.

The event will take place at Washington's W Hotel and is sponsored by America's New Majority, a political committee founded by Denham. Ticket packages to the fundraiser, which features country music star LeAnn Rimes, are priced as high as $50,000 for donors.

In an interview with California radio station KMJN, Denham defended the event, saying it doesn't conflict with the incoming majority's message of slashing spending in Washington and is aimed at helping safeguard the party's new House majority.

"We've got this new majority with 87 new members and the biggest question that you have is how many are going to come back next term," Denham said. "My job is to keep this class together, just like [Rep.] Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.] came in, raised a lot of money, had a high profile helping out his freshman class ... I'm doing the same thing."

The event has elicited criticism from some conservatives worried that the image of newly-elected Republicans hobnobbing with D.C. insiders at a high-dollar fundraiser sends the wrong message right as the party embarks on the 112th Congress.

And even though members of the GOP leadership are shying away from the event, as reported by Politico, Denham said he expects some of them to be there, though he didn't name any.

"I expect that leadership is going to be here," he said. "Many have confirmed already in leadership. But it's not about the leadership of the party, it's about the freshman class."

See the invitation here, which lists Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio), incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), incoming Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) as invited guests. 

Boehner and Cantor are not expected to attend but Sessions is scheduled to be there, according to reports.


O'Donnell forming PAC

O'Donnell said she expects the paperwork for the committee to be filed as early as the end of this week.


Gingrich PAC raises $314K; second behind Palin's PAC

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's American Solutions PAC raised $314,106 over the past month and a half, while directing more than $200K to other Republican candidates across the country. 

Gingrich also donated a total of $20K to Iowa's House Majority Fund, according to the committee's filing with the Federal Election Commission.

The number makes Gingrich's federal PAC haul second only to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose committee took in more than $460K over the same period and reported $1.2 million cash on hand. 

The former House Speaker also has a 527 group through which he has done the bulk of his fundraising during the past year.  

Palin's PAC gave money to close to 50 Republican congressional candidates in the month leading up to the midterm elections. She also donated to state Republican Parties in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Alaska. 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Free and Strong America PAC raised $285,295 between Oct. 14 and Nov. 22, but raised an additional $273K through his network of state PACs. That pushes Romney's total haul to more than half a million dollars. His federal PAC reported more than $1 million cash on hand. 

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's PAC raised less than $140,000 over the same period, while Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's committee raised $108,152. 

Barbour doled out more than $62,000 to other GOP campaigns and state parties across the country. He gave $5,000 to the state Republican Party in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He also donated to more state parties than any other contenders, including the state Republican Parties in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Minnesota. 


Liberal counterweight to outside GOP groups launches

Democratic activist David Brock is set to officially launch American Bridge, a political action committee intended to directly combat conservative groups, which dumped millions into the 2010 elections.     

Brock told The New York Times that he has already won commitments from donors totaling at least $4 million in just the last few weeks and will officially file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.  

Heading the group as chairwoman will be Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Townsend ran an unsuccessful campaign for Maryland governor in 2002. 

The goal of American Bridge is to act as a counterweight to groups like American Crossroads, offshoot group Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network — conservative groups that raised and spent millions on TV ads targeting Democrats in 2010. 

Brock, who heads the liberal group Media Matters, already has a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group at his disposal. He told the Times he also intends to utilize that existing structure in his 2012 efforts. 

More from the NYT:

Certain to set off debate, however, is that Mr. Brock appears to be positioning his new organization so that fund-raising consultants can raise money for Democratic-oriented media efforts not just through American Bridge but also via one of the nonprofit organizations Mr. Brock currently runs, Media Matters Action Network, which does not disclose its donors.

The action network, which tracks conservative politicians and advocacy organizations, is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group and is set to take on an expanded role in the 2012 elections, including potentially running television ads, according to an internal draft concept paper about American Bridge’s and Media Matter Action Network’s plans obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Brock said that “money is money,” and that he would actively solicit donors for both entities and, in the end, the media spending would be apportioned accordingly.  

Brock attempted to lead a similar effort in 2008, but then-Sen. Obama publicly and privately asked Democratic donors not to fund the outside efforts. With a cycle of success under their belt and conservative groups already gearing up to target the president, the White House has indicated it won't object in 2012.