UPDATE 1-Romney's fundraising potential far from tapped, analysis shows

Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:56am IST

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* Small portion of Romney donors have hit contribution limits

* Suggests more large donations to come

* Disclosures show Romney's own, Wall Street donations

By Alina Selyukh and Alexander Cohen

WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) - Among disclosed donors propelling fundraising for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, fewer than 1 percent have hit the federal ceiling on donations, suggesting cash is likely to keep pouring into his coffers.

Only 40 donors have given $75,800 -- the maximum individuals are allowed to give before the Nov. 6 election -- to the joint fund that Romney shares with the Republican National Committee, according to a Reuters analysis of the fund's first campaign finance filing submitted late on Sunday.

That is a drop in the ocean of more than 19,000 named donors -- those who have given a total of at least $200 and so triggered the threshold for federal disclosure. Some 2,000 of those named donors to the Romney Victory Inc fund have given $25,000 but can give more before hitting the limit, the analysis showed.

Democratic President Barack Obama's campaign filings show he is in a similar position, with very few donors having reached the maximum contribution limit. But his finances were previously disclosed, and his fundraising pattern has shown him less reliant on and successful at pulling in big checks.

Joint funds allow candidates to rake in much bigger donations than are allowed for campaigns on their own.

Romney formed his Victory fund with the RNC in April when he first emerged as the presumed party nominee. Since then, the fund has received $140.3 million, almost all of it from donors giving more than $200.

Obama has seen 29 donors give the maximum amount this year to the fund he shares with the Democratic National Committee, out of a total of about 38,000 donors who had given at least $200 to the fund before the end of May, according to the latest available data.

In contrast with the prolific small-donor driven campaign that put Obama into the White House in 2008, the 2012 race is marked by a chase after contributors capable of five-figure donations or more, as Democrats and Republicans are expected to invest some $1 billion each in this year's campaigns.

Obama's total haul of $552 million so far still has him ahead of Romney's $394 million but the Republican challenger has drilled deep into the ranks of Wall Street and the wealthy, where many are disgruntled by what they see as Obama's anti-business rhetoric and policies.

That reach has aided Romney's fast-paced catch-up to Obama's fundraising. Usually, the advantage in this area is held by an incumbent over the presidential challenger.

The president's campaign has been sounding alarms that he could be the first incumbent to be outspent.

And the Victory fund is one of the avenues Romney has to make that happen. While campaigns can take only up to $5,000 from one donor, split between the primary process and the general election, a fund used jointly with the national party can accept up to $70,800 in addition to that.

CASH IN THE BANK

The Victory fund, holding most of Romney's cash potency, has so far dispersed only a fraction of its money.

The Romney campaign has received $15.8 million and $53 million has been transferred to the RNC, Sunday's filing with the Federal Election Commission showed. State Republican parties in Vermont, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Idaho each got $20,000.

That and money paid out mostly for travel, consulting and payroll has left $57.7 million sitting in the fund by the end of June, ready to be funneled to Romney's or the party's needs.

Combined with the rest of Romney's and the RNC's money at the end of last month, the Republican had $160 million in cash on hand, his campaign has said.

Obama, his Obama Victory Fund 2012, and the DNC have not released their June cash on hand data but at the end of May had a total of about $144 million in the bank.

At the end of May, 11 percent of Romney's donations had come from those who gave $200 or less, according to analysis by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute. By comparison, 41 percent of the Obama campaign's donors had given $200 or less.

WALL STREET, LOBBYIST LINKS

Romney himself and his wife, Ann, each chipped in $75,000 to the joint fund in May. At the time, donors to the campaign saw that as a sign that Romney, a millionaire who could self-fund as much as he wants, was willing to put as much on the line as he was asking of his donors.

Romney's eldest son, Tagg, and his wife, Jennifer, each gave $47,500, filings showed. The candidate's brother G. Scott Romney donated another $50,000.

Sunday's filings also serve as latest indication of Romney's deep ties with Wall Street: Nine of top 10 companies giving to Romney were in the financial sector.

Employees of Goldman Sachs topped the list with $902,310 in contributions. Employees of hedge fund Elliott Management gave $771,600 and supporters from Bain Capital, a private equity firm formerly run by Romney, reached $757,100.

The list also includes banks Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse and investment management firm Apollo Global Management. .

Sunday's reports also showed 15 lobbyists "bundling" --gathering large amounts of cash -- for Romney's Victory fund and raised $2.2 million since April. A third of them are also bundling for Romney's campaign itself.

Unlike Obama, Romney has not disclosed his bundlers who are not registered lobbyists; disclosure of bundlers who lobby is required by federal law.

The 15 bundlers disclosed on Sunday include lobbyists for Barclays and Goldman Sachs, hotel operator Marriott International Inc, insurer Aflac, tech giant Microsoft Corp and brewer Anheuser Busch.

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