Romney Campaign Shows Proficiency In Fundraising

Tuesday, July 17th 2007, 7:08 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ Mitt Romney's campaign found 9,732 ways to spend its money last quarter.

From a $15 service fee for its travel agent to $31,500 to rent the Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park for a celebratory barbecue, the Republican presidential contender was anything but fiscally conservative in spending money as fast as he raised it between April and June.

Based on the report Romney filed with the Federal Election Commission over the weekend, his spending was so prolific he had to lend his committee $6.5 million during the quarter, allowing him to cover the difference between $20.5 million he spent and the $14 million he raised.

That loan also means that, for all intents and purposes, Romney has personally paid for every second of the $4.9 million in television ads his campaign has aired since he formally declared his candidacy in February.

And while the former venture capitalist's personal wealth may be declining, that of his cadre of Washington advisers is skyrocketing. Barbara Comstock, a former Justice Department official who is an expert in opposition research, is being paid $15,000 per month. Patton Boggs, the well-connected Washington law firm, is on a $35,000 monthly retainer.

Alex Castellanos, Romney's media adviser, may be doing best of all. All of Romney's advertising money _ $4.9 million _ has flowed through his Virginia firm, National Media Inc., and its affiliate, Midnight Ride Media. Political ad firms typically make a commission as high as 15 percent, which would leave Castellanos with up to $732,000 for the quarter if Romney did not negotiate a flat fee or lower commission rate.

Asked how much he is pocketing from the Romney campaign, Castellanos replied by e-mail: ``Everything else, I think, is in the secret plan, which is in the lead box in the cave in the vault.''

Kevin Madden, Romney's top spokesman, defended the extensive ad spending, saying it helps explain why Romney is leading in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, even if he trails GOP rivals Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson nationally.

``We're still in the introductory phase of the campaign, so investing in television spots allows us to introduce Mitt Romney and his platform of ideas to many voters for the first time. It helps us build awareness and get the governor's message across, and the result has been a growing level of support for his campaign,'' Madden said.

Romney, 60, has a reputation as a cautious businessman, priding himself on ingesting volumes of data before continuing with a business deal. The approach has paid off: His net worth is estimated at up to $250 million.

As a politician, he's also cast himself as a fiscal conservative, vowing to limit government spending and veto excesses.

And Romney has dismissed financing his own campaign, saying in January that donating any of his personal wealth to his campaign would be ``akin to a nightmare.'' Rather, he said he planned to seek support from a broad grass-roots network.

Romney ended up lending the campaign $2.35 million in the first quarter, and as of July 1, the total had climbed to $8.9 million.

That makes Romney the largest source of money for his campaign. He and his staff have also been no slouches at spending.

Package delivery by FedEx runs page after page in the report, even though items are listed 500 to a page. Romney is pouring hundreds of thousands monthly into his Web site, which recently featured a miniaturized image of him walking onto the screen, encouraging donations.

He's also spent tens of thousands just on finance consultants, including $15,000 per month to Rainmaker Sports and Entertainment in Sandy, Utah, a venture run by Blake M. Roney, chairman of Nu Skin Enterprises, and Larry H. Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team and the Delta Center, their Salt Lake City home.

Catering expenses have included $2,300 to the HyVee supermarket in West Des Moines, Iowa, and $6,100 to Chef Molly's Gourmet Solutions in Laguna Hills, Calif.

Both were pikers compared to the money Romney spent last month when he brought about 500 fundraisers to Boston for a party at Fenway Park and then a phone-a-thon the following day at the TD Banknorth Garden, home to the Boston Celtics and Bruins.

Besides the $31,500 rent for Fenway, Romney spent $40,000 on catering for the crowd. The Garden charges were listed only as ``staging,'' but they totaled $70,000.

The campaign spent another $21,000 on buses.

Romney's cadre of consultants, meanwhile, have not been shy about charging for their expertise.

Tom Rath, a prominent New Hampshire GOP consultant, is being paid $12,500 per month for strategic advise. Warren Tompkins, the former GOP executive director in South Carolina, is getting $12,000 monthly. Spencer Zwick, Romney's finance director, is being paid $25,000 per month. His campaign manager, Beth Myers, is being paid at a rate of $100,000 annually.

Jay Garrity, the personal aide who shadowed Romney until he was accused last month of impersonating a law enforcement officer in two states, had an annual salary of $56,000. He remains on paid leave.