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Election 2012: Campaign and Super PAC Fundraising

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WASHINGTON -- On Jan. 31, candidate campaign committees and super PACs revealed how much money they raised and where they spent it during the final three months of 2011.

This was the first disclosure for most of the super PACs spending money in the Republican presidential primary. Super PACs have had an inordinate amount of influence on the GOP race, with these independent committees spending more on television advertising than the candidate campaigns in every state so far. All of this without revealing their donors -- until now.

HuffPost will continue to post to this live blog about the fundraising reports throughout the week. If there's something that you're particularly interested in learning, drop a line to paulblumenthal@huffingtonpost.com.

If you're interested in following our coverage of campaign finance and political advertising you should sign up for HuffPost Fundrace, a daily newsletter about the intersection of money and politics.

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A major gulf is emerging between Democratic-leaning and Republican-leaning independent groups in terms of how much money they are raising for the 2012 election cycle.

On Tuesday afternoon, the super PAC American Crossroads and its affiliated nonprofit Crossroads GPS announced that they had raised a combined million in 2011. That put them on course to at least approach their stated goal of spending more than 0 million this electoral cycle.

Hours later, four Democratic groups (including, in some cases, their campaign arms) made an announcement of their own: During the course of 2011, they had raised a combined million.

  • Priorities USA/Priorities USA Action had raised more than .7 million.
  • Majority PAC had raised ,698,914.50.
  • House Majority PAC had raised ,020,215.
  • American Bridge 21st Century/American Bridge 21st Century Foundation had raised ,464,559.19.

There are several explanations for the disparity, one being that the Democratic outside groups got a late start in the fundraising game. Crossroads played a major role in 2010 and is duplicating those efforts now.

But the most logical explanation is that Democratic independent groups are struggling to pick up the crumbs left by the Obama campaign operation, which may be more open to these types of organizations than it was four years ago, but still wants donor money sent its way first.

-- Sam Stein

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The main super PAC supporting Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential primary -- Red White and Blue Fund -- donated ,000 to another super PAC to provide Santorum with a late burst of advertising featuring a very influential social conservative leader in Iowa.

In the waning days before the Iowa caucus, the super PAC Leaders for Families emerged with ads featuring evangelical Bob Vander Plaats endorsing Santorum for president. The ads wouldn't have run without the contributions from the other super PAC. Spending the pro-Santorum money through Leaders for Families made the Vander Plaats endorsement look more independent.

Santorum ended up winning the Iowa caucus.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Rick Santorum is attempting to prove that you do not need campaign contributions to stay in a presidential primary race. In the fourth quarter of 2011, Santorum raised only 5,000. That was, by far, his best fundraising quarter for the year.

While attention has fixated on the super PACs supporting Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Santorum's candidacy has been majorly fueled by a late injection of money from the Red White and Blue Fund, a super PAC funded by investor Foster Friess. The super PAC, along with another group called Leaders for Families, spent .8 million to support Santorum's run. That's just 0,000 less than the candidate raised in all of 2011.

The Santorum campaign did announce on Tuesday that fundraising picked up after the former senator officially won the Iowa caucus. According to the campaign, Santorum has raised million in January alone.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Make Us Great Again, the super PAC that spent million to try to win the Republican presidential nomination for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, raised .48 million from a number of wealthy Texans and the corporations they own over the last six months of 2011.

The biggest donor to the super PAC was billionaire Harold Simmons' Contran Corp., which gave million. Simmons is very close to Perry's administration and has been criticized for securing a permit to bury nuclear waste in Western Texas after contributing million to Perry's gubernatorial campaigns. Simmons was a top donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and is currently a major funder of the Karl Rove-linked super PAC American Crossroads.

Make Us Great Again spent about million on positive ads to support Perry's campaign, which foundered after a series of embarrassing debate performances by the candidate.

Two of the people in charge of the super PAC, Mike Toomey and Brint Ryan, tossed in 0,000 themselves. Also contributing was Texas home builder and Rick Perry's top career donor Bob Perry. Before the Texas governor jumped into the race, Bob Perry had contributed 0,000 to the super PAC backing Mitt Romney, raising questions about his allegiance.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Newt Gingrich raised .8 million in the last three months of 2011, more than three times the amount he had raised over the rest of the year. His campaign spent million and ended the year with million on hand.

More than half of Gingrich's money came from small donors giving less than 0. His campaign expenditures are not currently available because the disclosure filing has not yet fully uploaded.

See a graph of the dramatic increase in contributions of more than 0 to Gingrich over the course of 2011:

-- Paul Blumenthal

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A super PAC that supports the Lean Six Sigma management program and has spent money attacking Mitt Romney and supporting Newt Gingrich in the GOP primary revealed its one donor. Strong America Now Super PAC had been funded with 1,000 in contributions from Mike George, founder of the nonprofit Strong America Now and author of "Lean Six Sigma: Combining Six Sigma Quality With Lean Speed."

A biography of George on the Strong America Now website states, "Mike's personal mission is now to save the United States from financial disaster."

Strong America Now Super PAC spent 9,459 to support Gingrich in Iowa and South Carolina. The money largely went for mailings that assailed the record of his chief opponent, Romney.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign ended in what can best be described as inexplicable disaster. A candidacy that seemed ascendant in Iowa following a win in the Ames Straw poll fell apart amidst staff departures, insufficient public interest and -- we now know -- money woes.

On Tuesday, the Bachmann campaign filed its fourth-quarter fundraising report showing it had 8,724 cash on hand and ,055,924 in debts and obligations. In other words: the campaign ended 2011 about 0,000 in the red.

But if the bank account was drying up, not everyone was feeling the pinch. A number of high-profile consulting shops were paid big money by the Bachmann campaign even as the Minnesota Republican accumulated debt.

An examination of the records filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday shows that between October and December of 2011, the Bachmann campaign spent more than 0,000 on "campaign management" expenses, more than 0,000 on fundraising consulting and nearly ,000 on communications consulting.

Of the top 15 vendors during this period, seven were consultants. That list includes Campaign Solutions, a full-service consulting firm specializing in fundraising, which was paid more than 0,000 for "online fundraising consultant" services; Nahigian Strategies, a public outreach and strategic consulting firm, which was paid 8,400; and CD Inc., a corporate and marketing communications firm, which was paid ,252.

Bachmann paid consultants to help her raise money to pay consultants. Tour de Force Group LLC, a fundraising consultant, took in ,500 from the congresswoman's campaign during the fourth quarter of 2011.

It's no secret that the consultant class views presidential campaigns as cash cows. But when the candidate performs as poorly as Bachmann did, and those consultants still rack up impressive fees, the discrepancy underscores how useless those services can be.

-- Sam Stein

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@ melmason : best new star sighting on Obama's bundler list: The Wire/Treme's Wendell Pierce, who raised k-0k #bunk!

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Saul Hernandez, the man behind BestDamnTutoring.com, one of two corporate donors to Stephen Colbert's satirical super PAC, writes HuffPost to explain his contribution:

I'm a conservative but still think it's a bit crazy that corporations are able to inject millions into our political system via this loophole that the supreme court justices have so conveniently rationalized. It's always been my understanding growing up that our government is one of the people, not of corporations. It's also my understanding that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can act individually as persons, so does that mean that I own a person, that I own a slave called BestDamnTutoring.com. I would have paid money to be a fly on the wall when they reasoned through that one. It does seem that I'm also a bit of a hypocrite because: 1. I donated to a Super PAC & 2. I used a corporation to do it. It seemed clear to us (me and BestDamnTutoring.com) that his Super PAC was set up to make a mockery of this process and we were all for that. Why not use my personal account? Well, because my business is a startup, my pockets aren't super-deep (pun intended) and the government said I could, so I did. It was for a good cause and so I rationalized it that way. That and we'd be one of Colbert's Heroes!

Hernandez also notes that his total corporate contribution was 4, not the 0 that was previously reported.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Organizing for America, the president's reelection campaign, raised million in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a campaign official. The donations came from 583,000 people, 200,000 of whom had never given to Obama's campaign before, including his 2008 effort.

According to campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan, "The average contribution this quarter was , and 98 percent of our contributions were 0 or less."

For a list of the campaign's bundlers during the fourth quarter, click here.

-- Sam Stein

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The Obama Victory Fund, the big-money vehicle used by President Barack Obama for most of his high-dollar fundraising events, brought in million in the final three months of 2011. The victory fund can receive a maximum of ,800 from a donor, which it then splits, giving ,800 to the Democratic National Committee and ,000 to the Obama reelection campaign.

For the entire year of 2011, the victory fund brought in .9 million, or 40 percent of the total amount expected to be raised by the Obama campaign and the DNC.

The fund is also a favorite choice for celebrity contributions. In the final quarter of 2011, a lot of celebrities, from star executives to sports coaches to Hollywood actors, gave money to the victory fund, including Google's Sergey Brin and Vint Cerf, architect Frank Gehry, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Clinton pal Vernon Jordan, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Melanie Griffith, basketball stars past and present Magic Johnson, Grant Hill, Jamal Mashburn, and Vince Carter, and coaches Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich and Mike Tomlin.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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@ Markhalperin : Breaking: Santorum raised .2 million in January. Has .1 million cash on hand.

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One aspect of Tuesday's super PAC filings that HuffPost is watching closely is whether they list contributions that are not traceable to a human donor or a corporation with an identifiable human in charge.

The super PAC Citizens for Strength and Security just reported its finances and revealed a contribution of ,944 from Citizens for Strength and Security, a nonprofit organization of the same name that does not disclose its donors.

The Citizens United decision that paved the way for super PACs and allowed nonprofits to make contributions for independent electoral expenditures explicitly called for transparency and disclosure in this new system. This is what such disclosure looks like today.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Rep. Michele Bachmann was expected to be one of the better fundraisers in the Republican primary, but after posting decent numbers in her first four months in the race, her fundraising fell flat in the last three months of 2011. The Bachmann for President campaign raised only .7 million from October through December of last year.

Known as one of the most prolific fundraisers in Congress, Bachmann peaked in the presidential race in August when she won the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa. That was the same day that Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race, sucking all of the air out of the Bachmann balloon. The Minnesota congresswoman plummeted in the polls throughout the rest of 2011 and dropped out of the race after finishing in sixth place in the Iowa caucus.

Her campaign is left with a sizable debt of approximately 0,000.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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Comedian Stephen Colbert released the disclosure report for his super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Here's what we found:

At 12:01 Tuesday morning, the most famous super PAC in America disclosed its donors for the first time. Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, the vehicle for much of comedian Stephen Colbert's recent hijinks, disclosed that it had raised 5,475 from its inception in the middle of 2011 through December 31.

While most political observers want to see which billionaires and millionaires are bankrolling the super PACs backing the Republicans competing for the presidential nomination, the Colbert super PAC did not receive similarly super-sized campaign contributions. In fact, 90 percent of the contributions to Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow -- which can receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and unions -- came from donors giving under 0. Those small donors are not required to be listed on the super PAC's disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Colbert has repeatedly satirized the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, praising it for opening the door to unlimited corporate campaign contributions. His super PAC, however, only received contributions from two corporations. The Sticky Fingers Band, a Rolling Stones tribute band, and BestDamnTutoring.com gave 0 and 0 respectively. (You're welcome for the publicity.)

-- Paul Blumenthal

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During his wildly unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman raised little money for his campaign and relied almost exclusively on a super PAC to place ads on television. That super PAC was funded almost entirely by his billionaire industrialist father.

The super PAC raised .6 million, with .8 million of that coming from Jon Huntsman Sr.

Super PACs are supposed to be independent from campaigns, but connections between the candidates and the super PACs, like those between a father and son, have become fodder for public disgust with the system.

Huntsman dropped out of the race after finishing third in the New Hampshire primary, the only contest that he actually contested.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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When Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped into the Republican primary race in August, he was expected to raise a ton of money. And he did, pulling in million in the third quarter of 2011, even though he had less than two months to do so. By October, however, he had dropped in the polls thanks to a series of moribund debate performances. His fundraising suffered in the aftermath.

Perry raised only .9 million in the final three months of 2011. By the end of the year, before any caucus or primary had even been held, Perry's campaign had only .7 million on hand. His fundraising never really extended beyond his home state. Sixty percent of his campaign's itemized contributions -- those over 0 -- came from Texas donors.

Take a look at how his fundraising flat-lined starting in October.

-- Paul Blumenthal

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