02/15/2012 06:16 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2012

Meg Whitman, Mitt Romney's Former Finance Chair, Gives Little Funding This Time

This article comes to us courtesy of California Watch.

By Lance Williams

Back in the 1980s at Boston’s Bain & Co. business consulting firm, partner Mitt Romney mentored a promising young executive named Meg Whitman.

More than two decades later, when Whitman ran for governor of California, Romney and Bain gave her significant support.

Romney donated $25,900 – the maximum allowed by state law – and Bain executives pumped an additional $216,000 into Whitman’s losing campaign against Democrat Jerry Brown.

Now, Romney is battling to nail down the Republican presidential nomination. But so far at least, Whitman hasn’t proved a significant source of political money for Romney, records show.

The powerful California corporations with Whitman ties – online auction house eBay, where she was CEO before running for governor, and Hewlett-Packard, where she became CEO last year – haven't stepped up for Romney, either.

Federal Election Commission records show Whitman donated $2,500 to Romney’s campaign last year. She gave $5,000 more to his Free and Strong America PAC, through which Romney donates to Republican members of Congress, according to the records.

But Whitman, whose net worth when she left eBay was estimated at $1.4 billion, has not contributed to Restore Our Future, the super political action committee that is collecting as much as $1 million per donor to support Romney’s presidential bid.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard employees have donated only $3,500 to Romney – with $2,500 coming from Ann Livermore, a member of the board of directors. Employees of eBay have donated only $3,550 to the former Massachusetts governor, $1,000 of it from Deputy General Counsel Brian Levey.

The dynamic was far different in 2008, when Romney lost his bid for the GOP presidential nomination to John McCain. In that campaign, Whitman served as Romney’s finance chairwoman and raised $12 million for him, she wrote in her 2010 autobiography, “The Power of Many.”

After that, Whitman launched her campaign for governor and wound up spending more than $140 million of her own money in the losing effort. A Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether Whitman planned to campaign for Romney.

Overall, Romney has raised $3.95 million in California – about 8 percent of the $50.3 million in individual donations he has obtained nationwide, records show.

California-based executives of Bain have proved the biggest single source of Romney’s individual donations: 48 have combined to donate $48,850. The total includes employees of both the consulting firm and the investment bank Bain Capital, where Romney served as CEO.

Nationwide, Bain executives have pumped almost $5 million into Romney’s political campaigns, past and present, the Center for Public Integrity has reported. That includes $96,000 that Whitman donated in 2006, according to the report.

Executives of the California offices of two New York investment banks also gave significant donations to Romney. Morgan Stanley officials combined to give $27,000, making the firm Romney’s second-biggest source of campaign cash in California. Employees of Goldman Sachs gave $26,500, ranking third.

As California Watch has reported, the Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has mined California for $2.3 million in donations. The biggest single donor was W/F Investment Corp. of Los Angeles, a private equity firm that says it “focuses on acquiring fiscally troubled public companies.” It gave $275,000.

Since California Watch's report, Restore Our Future has cleared up the mystery surrounding the identity of its second-biggest California donor. The super PAC’s initial filing reported that a Redwood City entity called Glenbrook LLC had donated $250,000. Glenbrook's address went back to an accounting firm, and the accountants refused to comment.

Then the Romney super PAC amended its filing, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News.

The reference to Glenbrook was omitted. Instead, the super PAC reported receiving $125,000 from Jesse Rogers, a former Bain & Co. executive who now is managing director of Altamont Capital Partners, a Palo Alto private equity firm. It also reported a $125,000 donation from his wife. Rogers also donated $2,500 to Romney’s campaign, and Altamont Capital donated $10,000 to Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC.

In her 2010 book, Whitman described Romney as a longtime friend and “thoroughly decent human being” who had often given her sound career advice. When he sought the presidency in 2008, it was “for the right reasons,” she wrote.

“He wanted to bring in some of the rigors of business and financial analysis that we had both learned and seen work at Bain and put them to use in the cause of making government work more efficiently,” she wrote of Romney.

But Whitman said Romney’s campaign foundered because of the “scrutiny and attacks he was subject to” because of his Mormon faith.

“They were so intense and became so defining that he could not establish a coherent campaign message,” she wrote.

Romney abandoned the campaign after falling short in the Super Tuesday primaries in March 2008. Two weeks later, Whitman became a national co-chairwoman for McCain, who won the GOP nomination and later lost to President Barack Obama.

California Watch staff reporter Erica Perez contributed to this report. Lance Williams is an investigative reporter for California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting. Find more California Watch stories here.