If there's one thing the Mitt Romney team excels at, it's manipulating campaign-finance rules. Through intertwined state party committees, joint fundraising, "Super PACs," and other maneuvers, they have made a series of clever moves over the years to maximize the amount of money Romney's wealthy donors could put to use for his benefit.
The team has now found another new technique — one that will allow the Romney campaign to direct large sums of money, as needed, to state GOP committees in battleground states.
This week, the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) established a joint-fundraising account, "Romney Victory Inc." The idea is that donors can write one big check to the joint account, which can then be divvied up between Romney's campaign committee and the RNC.
Nothing especially unique about that. But the paperwork filed with the Federal Election Committee shows that several other committees are included in the arrangement — including the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee, as well as the Idaho Republican Party, the Oklahoma Leadership Council, and the Vermont Federal Elections Committee.
These are the federal fundraising committees of those state parties. As you may have noticed, none of those four states taking part in this scheme are expected to be at all competitive in the presidential race. So why would the Romney campaign and the RNC raise money for them?
The answer: so they can re-direct the money to states that need it.
Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul responded to my inquiry by e-mail, explaining: "The joint fundraising committee includes state parties that are permitted by federal election law to make unlimited federal dollar transfers to the battleground state parties."
This is essentially correct. Federal law does not limit transfers from federal party committees — like the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee — to state party committees. State laws, however, do govern the amounts — but it so happens that most of the anticipated "battleground states" in the 2012 presidential election effectively allow unlimited transfers of this type.
So, these four accounts will receive contributions and funnel them, in bulk, to the state GOP committees in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Missouri, New Hampshire, or wherever the money might prove useful.
This arrangement will greatly expand the amount Romney can direct for use in this campaign, essentially doubling it in one swipe. He has a large group of donors willing to give hefty sums, but has so far proven unable to raise significant funds from low-dollar contributors. His wealthy donors will now be able to write a $75,000 check, or $150,000 per couple.