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Obama, Romney surpassed $2 billion in campaign fundraising

This news story was published on December 7, 2012.
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By Melanie Mason and Joseph Tanfani, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney shattered spending records during their 2012 campaigns, eclipsing $2 billion in fundraising, the campaigns disclosed Thursday.

Obama, who surpassed $1 billion in mid-October, added $111 million to his campaign and affiliated committees in the final 2 ½ weeks of the campaign, according to a campaign official. In all, the president raised $1.1 billion for his re-election effort.

Romney’s final money push in that same period netted him more than $89.5 million — enough to nudge him past the billion-dollar mark as well. His total fundraising for the cycle was $1.01 billion.

The record-busting sums — a result of both candidates bypassing public financing to build their own flush money networks — do not include the hundreds of millions more spent by outside groups.

The finance details trickled out Thursday night, the deadline for Federal Election Commission reports covering Oct. 18 through Nov. 26.

In the end, neither campaign fully exhausted their historic hauls. Romney had $24.4 million still in the bank at the end of November and Obama had at least $8.8 million on hand.

The Romney campaign, in a statement, noted the cash-on-hand figure did not account for spending that was still in process as the campaign winds down. The campaign predicted the final cash surplus would be less than $1 million.

Outside groups were also scooping up last-minute cash as well. Restore Our Future, the “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney, brought in $22.1 million.

Nearly half of that came from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated $5 million apiece. In all, the Adelsons gave $30 million to the pro-Romney group during the election. They poured tens of millions more to a lengthy roster of conservative super PACs and nonprofits, making the couple this cycle’s most high-profile GOP donors.

Restore Our Future also netted 11th-hour checks from Lawrence Ellison, chief executive of Oracle Corp., who gave $3 million to the group in October: $2 million on Oct. 19, and an additional $1 million five days later. The checks were by far the biggest bet on a federal election by Ellison, according to FEC records. Until then, he had given about $300,000 total since 1997, split between Democrats and Republicans.

Other $1 million checks came from Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, and the Renco Group, an investment firm owned by the billionaire Ira Rennert. Bob Barker, former host of “The Price is Right” game show, gave $174,200.

The money helped underwrite a closing ad blitz for the group, which spent $41.6 million on television, online and direct mail advertising opposing Obama in the final weeks of the campaign. In all, the super PAC — run by former Romney aides — spent $153 million in its attempt to boost Romney’s candidacy.

Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Obama, also picked up some big checks at the close of the campaign. Two executives in a hedge fund called Renaissance Technologies, founder James H. Simons and research head Henry Laufer, each gave $1.5 million; Simons gave $5 million total. Priorities also received $3.9 million from unions in the last weeks of the campaign, including $1 million from the Laborers International Union the day before the election.

Priorities spent freely on a furious television blitz to close out the race, buying $18.5 million worth of air time in the last few weeks — more than a quarter of the group’s ad spending during the entire campaign.

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