Mitt's equity army

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  August 10, 2007

Since then, political observers add, Romney has been laying the groundwork for what he has sown this year: a far-flung fundraising network, outpacing his Republican rivals by raising more than $37 million in individual contributions. That money has primarily come from wealthy people in the finance and business communities, each giving the maximum allowed: donations of $2300. His “bundlers” — supporters who raise large sums by soliciting donations from their friends and associates — include dozens of people who have, in some way, benefited from Romney’s business acumen (or largesse) and through the private-equity company he co-founded, at the behest of his former boss (and key funder) William Bain.

That support begins with dozens of current and former employees of Bain Capital, its sister management-consulting firm Bain & Company, and Bain spin-offs, who along with their spouses have contributed more than a half-million dollars to Romney’s campaign, according to a Phoenix analysis of campaign-finance reports.

Equally generous have been the banking, legal, and advisory firms that Bain Capital uses for its large venture-capital and leveraged-buyout (LBO) deals. Bain has remained loyal to a small number of elite firms for these transactions, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Kirkland & Ellis. Employees of those three companies and their spouses account for well over another half-million dollars in Romney’s coffers. Romney is hardly unique in that regard — Barack Obama has received more than a half-million from Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers — but when it comes to successfully soliciting funds from Wall Street, Romney has out-raised his more-politically-powerful competition, including McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Hillary Clinton.

It’s almost as if by dint of knowing the secret financial-world handshake, Romney has been able to open a veritable contribution pipeline from the wallets of Masters of the Universe to his own war chest. And, unlike his rivals, Romney has also been able to tap into a network of executives whose current or former companies were owned or funded by Bain Capital throughout the years. This network includes many companies that Bain Capital bought or funded recently — well after Romney severed his official ties with Bain.

That speaks to the faith people have in Romney and his company, says long-time Romney colleague Geoffrey Rehnert. Rehnert helped found Bain Capital and is now co-CEO at Audax Group, a Bain-funded investment company that Rehnert started in 1999, when Romney left to head up the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

“I suspect that Mitt is getting lots of support from the people who enjoyed financial success while working with him,” writes Rehnert in an email to the Phoenix. “While many may not share his views on certain issues, I believe that Mitt has created a lot of loyalty among the people with whom he did business.”

Romney helped build this loyalty, according to some, by being particularly generous to those now supporting him the most.

One such example is Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay — and one of the Romney campaign’s national finance chairs. Whitman worked with Romney at Bain & Company before going to work for Disney and then Keds. In 1995, when Bain Capital bought florist chain FTD, Romney installed Whitman as CEO. She left after just 18 months, with stocks, salary, and bonuses worth well more than a million dollars — even though, as she has conceded in interviews, she did not come close to successfully putting the company on the right track.

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Related: The Mormonator, Drive free or die, Mitt’s thorny threesome, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Job Losses, Labor Market, buyouts,  More more >
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