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Report: 2012 hopefuls banking on state-level PACs

While average Americans were tightening their belts in 2010, potential 2012 presidential candidates were busy feathering their nests in the states to the tune of $2.7 million that didn’t have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Through the formation of state-level Political Action Committees (PACs) politicians have been able to skirt FEC prohibitions on contributions in excess of $5,000 , according to a new report by The National Institute on Money in Politics. And in many cases, individual contributors used one or more state PACs to give far more than the FEC limit.

… Mitt Romney provides an excellent example of how a candidate can receive money from a single source in multiple states. Romney’s federal Free & Strong America PAC raised $8.8 million in 2010; Romney also formed five state affiliates that brought in an additional $2 million.

A significant amount of the money channelled into Romney’s state committees—30 percent of the money reported in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, and Michigan —came from people in the financial investment industry. One contributor, Edward Conard of Bain Capital LLC, a private equity firm Romney helped found, gave Romney $73,000 on May 20 and 21, 2010, but only $5,000 shows on the federal PAC report. The remaining $68,000 went to the above-mentioned state affiliates. Haley Barbour’s Haley’s Leadership PAC reported raising $526,240 in Georgia from donors around the country, including $100,000 from Jamal Daniel, of Crest Investments. On top of that amount, the FEC also reports Daniel giving the maximum of $5,000. …

Although Romney’s PAC was the only to show a current affiliate in Iowa, the campaign was far from alone in garnering contributions at several levels. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC raised nearly $90,000 in New Hampshire, but only $75 of that came from state residents. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee mostly took in smaller contributions in Oklahoma and Michigan to add about $20,000 to Huck PAC.

The report, which openly admits it doesn’t include all PAC activity, also notes that the 2012 hopefuls were building goodwill in early states with monetary support of local politicians. In Iowa, for instance, the Republican gubernatorial team of Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds was given $52,000 — $30,000 from Romney, $10,000 from Pawlenty, $5,000 each from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and $2,500 from South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

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