The midyear campaign-finance reports are in, giving us a look at what Mitt Romney’s been getting from all those fundraising trips out of state. His six “Leadership” political-action committees (PAC)— one federal and five state committees, all named Commonwealth PAC — raised nearly $3 million in contributions in the first half of 2006.
Until Mitt opens a presidential-campaign committee, which he’ll probably do in January, this early seed money is covering the beginning phase of his campaign for the White House. The Leadership PACs pay for him and his staff to travel the land and to make donations to Republican candidates and county GOP committees, especially in states that play a crucial, early-voting role in the 2008 nomination process.
But another thing Leadership PAC contributions can provide is insight into the sources of a candidate’s early support. In 2004, for example, outsider John Edwards’s Leadership PAC was extremely well funded by his fellow trial lawyers; dyed-in-the-wool liberal Dick Gephardt got much financial love from unions and from candidates he had helped elect to Congress; John Kerry raked it in from party elites who had coalesced around him as the most electable candidate; and pretty much nobody gave to Howard Dean’s PAC, prompting him to ditch it and become the first to form a presidential committee.
The checks going to Romney’s Commonwealth PAC this year are equally telling, and for the most part unsurprising. More than $1 million came from Utah, where Romney has had an eager fan club of wealthy businessmen and Mormons since he ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Much of the rest came from venture capitalists and other financiers, mostly from Massachusetts, including many of Romney’s former colleagues at Bain & Co.
No surprises there. But you might not have realized how popular our governor is among a demographic whose political influence is rarely discussed: homemakers.
Already this year, Romney’s Commonwealth PACs have received a total of $354,500 from 47 women identified as “homemaker” on campaign-finance reports. (Probably considerably more: the Iowa Commonwealth PAC, which can accept unlimited individual contributions, has not reported since early May, and most of the contributions have occurred since then.)
What draws these housewives to give so generously to our governor? Is it his movie-star good looks? His zealous protection of heterosexual marriage? His health-coverage-reform bill? Are these the “soccer moms” of 2008?
A cynic might suggest that most of these 47 women were subserviently signing checks to help their wealthy husbands double their investments in Mitt. Or perhaps triple. (Oh, like you could resist the gratuitous polygamy joke.)
Sheree Gaughan, for example, gave $18,500, including maximum allowable contributions to the federal, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Commonwealth PACs — on the same day that her husband, California businessman Frank Gaughan, gave the exact same amounts. Joan Cutler matched the generous contributions of her husband, the president of GWV Vacations. So did Jennifer Bullock, LaDawn Painter, Gabriella Morton, and Jane Kennedy, wives of Utah businessmen Fraser Bullock, Tom LaPainter, Gordon Morton, and Gary Kennedy, respectively. On June 14, four homemakers in the extended family of Utah businessman Larry H. Miller gave amounts identical to those donated by the (working) men of the family. Three homemakers in Utah’s powerful Eccles family did the same on the 29th.
The lovefest even spilled over to the Romney-chaired Republican Governors Association, which last month received $25,000 from “homemaker” Maryann Keeler of Grand Rapids. No political-watchdog groups have yet accused Romney of being in the pocket of the homemakers’ lobby. But if he does become president, he’d better remember who made it happen. If we’ve learned anything from Sunday-night TV, it’s that hell hath no fury like housewives scorned.