Mitt Romney donates to Wisconsin Republican Party as budget battle rages

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate, announced Thursday that his political action committee has donated $5,000 to the Wisconsin Republican Party as a sign of support for Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the state's ongoing budget fight. 

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The donation from Romney's Free and Strong America PAC is the latest move by a rumored 2012 hopeful to demonstrate their support of Walker in what has become a nationalized battle over public employee benefits. 

"Liberal big government interests are fighting efforts to rein in out-of-control public employee pay and benefits in Wisconsin," Romney said in a statement. "It is critical that we stand with the Wisconsin GOP as it stands up for the rights of the taxpayer."

His $5,000 donation was the maximum he could give.

Romney's move comes as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty released a video Thursday and launched an online petition to offer support for Walker.  

"I'm confident Governor Walker's reforms will succeed in Wisconsin," Pawlenty's petitions reads, in part. "Stand strong Scott — average taxpayers everywhere are rooting for you." 

On Wednesday, another potential 2012 hopeful weighed in as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee encouraged Walker to "stand tough" in the budget fight, saying fleeing state Democratic lawmakers should be held accountable for "a dereliction of duty."

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin state assembly is expected to vote on a budget plan Thursday, which would force public employees to pay some of their healthcare and pension benefits, as well as limit their collective bargaining power.