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GOP 2012 Hopefuls Lavish Time, Money on 2010 Candidates

Republican presidential hopefuls have been busy crisscrossing the country in the lead-up to election day, performing last-minute favors on behalf of candidates in key congressional and gubernatorial races they wouldn’t mind seeing repaid when the Republican presidential primaries roll around. All the headlines documenting these appearances tend to blur together, however, which makes the Center for Responsive Politics’ new breakdown of all the top contenders’ expenses up to this point all the more helpful.

A quick glance at the data yields a few observations, including the most obvious one: While the media follow former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s travel schedule and endorsements like a hawk, SarahPAC’s total receipts of $4.94 million, while impressive, pale in comparison the $8.4 million raised by former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-Mass.) Free and Strong America PAC. Also of note is the fact that despite her massive haul, Palin’s PAC has only donated $135,500 to federal candidates. Romney, on the other hand, has given more than $470,000 during the same time frame.

Direct donations to candidates are only one function of the work that PACs affiliated with presidential hopefuls tend to do, of course. The PACs also spend money on travel and other activities to assist political allies campaigning for office. But SarahPAC’s relative stinginess with candidates might also have to do with the fact that it’s using up a relatively large percentage of its expenditures — more than $670,000 — to fund media and political consultants and other forms of media.

Instead of giving lots of money directly, in other words, she’s spending to boost her own profile. It could pay off by making her endorsements carry that much more weight, or it could backfire by leaving some candidates feeling snubbed when it comes to direct donations to their campaigns.

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