Thursday 22 March 2018

Romney outstrips Obama in election fundraising fight

Philip Sherwell in New York

It is on course to become the most expensive election in history, with at least $3bn (€2.4bn) likely to have been spent by the end of this year's battle for the White House.

So even though Mitt Romney may have had an uncomfortable few days in the spotlight while visiting London, the good news for his campaign was that he was putting dollars in the bank.

The Republican challenger for the presidency managed to annoy his hosts by questioning London's preparedness to host the Olympic Games -- a faux pas that had him mocked by Boris Johnson, the London mayor; criticised by the former American sprinter Carl Lewis; and derided in newspapers in Britain and at home. But in the race with President Barack Obama for money, now in full swing, London was nonetheless a lucrative pit-stop.

Mr Romney added a further $2m (€1.6m) to his coffers at a $75,000-a-head dinner for affluent US expatriates, held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last Thursday.

But the funds raised in Britain are nothing compared with contributions from donors such as Sheldon Adelson, one of the 10 richest Americans, who are willing to write $10m (€8.1m) cheques.

The Las Vegas casino magnate will be among the welcoming party of wealthy Jewish-American supporters of Mr Romney during his visit to Jerusalem this weekend.

Meetings with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an old Romney managing consulting acquaintance from Boston, and Palestinian leaders were top of the official agenda for the former Massachusetts governor.

But in a fundraising event at the King David Hotel, Mr Adelson will be the star turn. The stridently Zionist billionaire and his wife Miriam have pledged to donate $100m (€81m) to Republican groups to fight November's elections, and gave $10m last month alone.

Money and politics have long been inextricably linked in America, but the role of deep-pocketed donors has never been more prominent. Mr Obama was the fundraising behemoth of the 2008 campaign, but Mr Romney is making the financial headlines this year.

The Adelsons are not even the biggest conservative contributors. The top spot goes to the brothers David and Charles Koch, long-time supporters of libertarian causes, who have said that they will this year pour $400m (€325m) into groups that support Mr Romney and Republican candidates in national and state elections.

Most money goes to what are known as "super PACs" (political action committees) -- groups nominally independent of any candidate which can solicit and spend unlimited sums from individual donors, as well as from corporations and unions, on highly partisan advertising.

In this record-breaking year, the biggest financial juggernaut is American Crossroads, a super PAC headed by Karl Rove, the former chief political adviser to President George W Bush. The group set a fundraising target for this election cycle of $300m (€243m), and is on course to beat that.

In the absence of individual donors on this scale, Mr Obama has been investing much of his time in lucrative fundraising dinners hosted by the likes of George Clooney, the actor, in Los Angeles and Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, with the actress Sarah Jessica Parker in New York.

Even before the final stages of the battle for the White House, the outlandish sums already raised and spent are head-spinning.

The Obama and Romney campaigns, combined with the two national parties, brought in more than $1bn (€811m) by the end of last month. In June alone, the Romney operation raised more than $100m (€81m), leading Mr Obama to warn supporters that without more help he could be the first sitting president to be financially outpaced by a challenger.

After nearly four years in office, Mr Obama is finding that his own supporters have lost much of their early enthusiasm, compared with the ardour of his foes to oust him from the White House.

The role of billionaire conservative donors in the campaign has prompted charges by liberal groups that they are buying the election.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the right to make unlimited donations is protected by the constitution. And as Mr Romney's overseas tour illustrates, the all-American amalgam of money and politics does not stop at America's borders.

© Telegraph

Sunday Independent

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