Romney fundraiser jumps from campaign to super PAC

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Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate

Mary Schwalm/AP

Top Romney campaign fundraiser Steve Roche has jumped to Restore Our Future to help spearhead the Super PAC’s multimillion-dollar fundraising operation, in another sign of synergies between the campaign and the PAC.

Roche’s move to the Super PAC came earlier this month as the contest for the nomination heated up with the entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Even before Perry formally announced, he had at least six Super PACs in his corner. One of these, Make Us Great Again, is widely perceived as his chief backer: it was started by Perry’s former chief of staff Mike Toomey and has quickly hit up many loyal Lone Star donors who have given over $100,000 apiece to his campaigns since 2001.

In the first six months of this year, the Romney-affiliated Restore Our Future raised $12.2 million, including four $1 million checks. By contrast, the campaign hauled in $18.3 million during the second quarter, a performance that fell somewhat short of early expectations yet far exceeded any other GOP candidate.

Roche’s job shift underscores that the campaign and Restore Our Future, which by law are barred from coordinating advertising and other activities, have fundraising links that could potentially raise coordination issues.

Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, said there is a specific agency rule that addresses what high level campaign employees leaving to work at another committee can do and can’t do to avoid triggering coordination.

A high-level person leaving a campaign committee for another "raises issues of possible coordination,” Noble, now an election lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, told iWatch News. “Bringing over strategic information from the campaign to an independent committee can be an element of coordination.”

But under FEC rules, Noble said, “Additional elements, often involving creating the PAC’s advertising, are needed before the PAC’s activities become a prohibited contribution to the candidate.”

At least one campaign finance reform advocate is pushing for much tougher definitions of coordination with an eye to curbing Super PAC fundraising. “Getting a real definition of coordination is the key to shutting down these Super PACs,” said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21.

Carl Forti, a founder of the Super PAC, said, “We’re absolutely aware of the FEC rules.” But Forti declined to comment about Roche’s fundraising duties at the PAC.

This is not the first case where the Romney campaign and the Super PAC have had fundraising ties, an area that election lawyers note has a lot of wiggle room due to loose FEC regulations. On July 19, Romney attended a private dinner to show his appreciation for about two dozen current and potential donors to his PAC in New York.

Further, some of the PAC’s largest donors are also big bundlers for the campaign. On Aug. 28, hedge fund mogul John Paulson, who has donated $1 million to the PAC, is hosting a big bash for the campaign at his home in Southampton.

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