JACK GILLUM, KEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are neck and neck in filling their presidential campaign coffers after a summer of strong fundraising amid voter anger over jobs and the economy. They’re pulling in big bucks — $30 million combined — though not nearly as big as the man they hope to replace in the White House.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney on Friday reported roughly $14 million in contributions during the July-September period and had nearly $15 million on hand. Texas Gov. Perry, who briefly surged to the top of the Republican presidential field this summer, has roughly the same in the bank, having raised about $17 million during the first few weeks of his campaign.
Still, the GOP candidates’ fundraising efforts lag behind the man whose job they want: President Barack Obama raised more than $70 million for his re-election and the Democratic Party — $42.8 million for his own campaign and $27.3 million for the Democratic National Committee.
Not counting major support from GOP-leaning super PACs, the virtual tie between Romney and Perry for cash on hand means the two have similar amounts to spend on ads and travel just months before heading into key primary states. Obama can save most of the $150 million he raised since April for next year because he does not face a primary opponent.
Filings released late Friday show a broad base of support for Romney, with major contributions from Oregon to New York. The donations include big checks from GOP stalwarts, such as $5,000 from the New Republican Majority Fund, a political action committee affiliated with former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott.
The candidates’ reports, all due Saturday, are offering the first complete look at the financial health of the GOP field. They are the first official tallies of donations and expenses for contenders Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Herman Cain.
The reports won’t capture the tens of millions raised by new, outside groups known as super political action committees, which can collect unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Leading contenders Perry and Romney have at least one super PAC each working to boost their candidacies, and another group is backing Obama’s re-election bid.
Obama’s campaign said 600,000 people donated to the campaign this recent quarter, more than the previous three months. Nearly 1 million supporters have given money to the campaign and 98 percent of the donors this summer gave $250 or less, with an average donation of $56.
“Right now, just shy of 1 million people like you have taken ownership of this campaign by pitching in whatever they can afford,” Obama campaign finance director Rufus Gifford said in an email to supporters Friday, adding that the campaign’s financial report “shows this movement isn’t just as strong as ever — it’s growing.”
Romney, coming out of strong showings at recent GOP debates, showed similar support from small-dollar donors, drawing most of his contributions from checks less than $250. Romney, a former venture capitalist, had raised $18 million during the April-June period.
Yet Romney also drew big dollars from several contribution bundlers, records show, including former financial lobbyist T. Martin Fiorentino and Judi Rhines of The Rath Group, the namesake firm of former George W. Bush campaign adviser Tom Rath.
For its part, the Obama campaign released its latest list of elite fundraisers who act as bundlers, well-connected donors who raise campaign cash from friends and business associates. The list included 351 individuals or couples who collectively have raised at least $55.5 million since April.
The list included two figures connected to Solyndra LLC, the California solar company that received a $528 million federal loan and then later declared bankruptcy, prompting a federal investigation. Steve Spinner, an Energy Department adviser, raised at least $500,000 for the president, while Steve Westly, a venture capitalist who was an unpaid adviser to the department, raised between $200,000 and $500,000.
Other candidates, meanwhile, are saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Huntsman owes about $890,000, even after giving his campaign more than $2 million of his own money. Huntsman’s campaign on Friday was set to report fundraising totals that showed he had $327,000 in the bank, showing difficulty for Huntsman’s fundraising and suggesting why he shut down his national headquarters in Orlando, Fla., last month.
“Gov. Huntsman has the best record and boldest vision for leading this country,” spokesman Tim Miller said, “and our campaign will have the resources necessary to ensure he will win New Hampshire and go on to the nomination.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the race in August, is still deep in debt. A fundraising report covering July through September shows he owes $453,000 for the campaign. All told, Pawlenty raised about $5.4 million but had to give some of the money back because he could tap it only if he had won his party’s nomination.