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Romney widens cash advantage over Obama

By Matea Gold and Joseph Tanfani, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney widened his cash advantage over President Barack Obama in July as the president’s re-election campaign continued to wage a costly air assault against the Republican presidential challenger, racing through more money than it raised.

Obama’s re-election effort and related Democratic fundraising committees had $127 million left at the end of July, while the Romney campaign and its Republican allies sat on $186 million, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

The cash imbalance reflects both the prodigious fundraising by Romney, who outraised Obama for the third month in a row, and the massive expenditures by the president’s re-election campaign — largely on a barrage of ads lambasting Romney’s tax plan as favoring the rich and linking him to his private equity firm’s investments in companies that outsource jobs.

With three months to go before election day, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee had already spent half a billion dollars this cycle, according to a Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau calculation of data from FEC filings and the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Romney and his affiliated GOP committees had spent about $350 million through the end of July.

But the former Massachusetts governor has been flanked by an array of deep-pocketed “super PACs” and nonprofit advocacy groups that are pumping tens of millions of dollars into the race on his behalf, vastly outspending a pro-Obama super PAC.

In July, Romney and the Republican National Committee outraised Obama and his Democratic allies $101 million to $75 million

Obama’s campaign raced through nearly $59 million last month, about the same as it spent in June, while raising $49 million.

The re-election campaign made another enormous ad buy in July, spending nearly $39 million on television spots through GMMB, a Washington advertising and media placement firm, and $8.6 million on digital marketing through Bully Pulpit Interactive, a firm run by digital strategists who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Another $4.3 million went to pay hundreds of campaign staffers.

The Romney campaign stayed in the black, raising $40 million while spending just under $33 million in July. More than half — nearly $18 million — went to pay American Rambler Productions, a media firm run by Romney’s top advisers, to produce and place television spots. The campaign spent $2.1 million on payroll and $1.3 million on telemarketing.

Although the GOP candidate was outgunned on television by Obama, the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future helped make up the difference, spending more than $8 million on ads touting his candidacy.

After raising a record $20.6 million in June with the help of mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, Restore Our Future brought in $7.4 million in contributions last month. The biggest donor: Houston home builder Bob Perry, who donated $2 million — bringing his total donations to the super PAC to $8 million.

The Renco Group, the holding company of billionaire GOP donor Ira Rennert, shelled out $1 million. The Larry H. Miller Group of Sandy, Utah, gave $787,000, bringing its total to nearly $1 million. The company, named after its late founder, owns auto dealerships, sports teams and other interests.

Another $350,000 came from the Miami-based United Capital Holdings Corp., a company controlled by members of the Poma family, wealthy Salvadoran entrepreneurs who were some of the first investors in Bain Capital, the private equity firm formerly run by Romney.

The donation was recorded July 19, the same day the Los Angeles Times published a report noting that the Pomas were among the wealthy foreigners who made up a third of Bain’s first $37 million fund.

For its part, Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC, brought in nearly $4.8 million last month and spent $2.5 million on media.

New York computational biochemist David E. Shaw, appointed by Obama to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, donated $500,000. Anne Cox Chambers, the Atlanta media doyenne whose father founded Cox Enterprises, contributed another $500,000. And Clifford Burnstein of New York, manager of the rock bands Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, gave $100,000.

Priorities’ biggest donor was Mel Heifetz, a Philadelphia real estate investor and gay-rights advocate, who contributed $1 million.

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