Mitt Romney's hometown paper, the Boston Globe, reports that Romney is already moving towards a Presidential run in 2012. You see, Romney opened a PAC, the Free and Strong America political action committee, ostensibly for helping other Republican candidates. Romney has raised $2.1-million for such purposes, said he, but only 12% has been used for such. The rest, the paper reports, has gone to Romney's upcoming Mitt '12 campaign.
Instead, the largest chunk of the money has gone to support Romney's political ambitions, paying for salaries and consulting fees to over a half-dozen of Romney's longtime political aides, according to a Globe review of expenditures.
Romney founded the Free and Strong America Committee shortly after dropping out of the 2008 presidential primary. He filled its coffers by telling conservative contributors around the country that their money would be used to support Republican candidates and causes.
According to the Globe analysis, he spent $244,000 on contributions to congressional and other candidates between April and the November elections. He has spent more than twice as much on staff salaries and contracts to hire professional fund-raisers, who are compiling contributor lists that will serve Romney well in a future presidential campaign.
In essence, Romney is financing a political enterprise that he can use to remain a national GOP leader and use as a springboard should he decide to launch another presidential bid for 2012.
That's what political candidates do, but the Globe attributes nefarious motives and impersonates the rumblings of a Romney Machine.
Romney's peeps say that PAC money is used for other Republican candidates and for jetting Mitt around the country to work on behalf of sundry GOP candidates.
Says a Romney fundraising letter:
"It is more essential than ever that conservative candidates and organizations have the resources they need to get their message out to voters," Romney said in the fund-raising appeal. "Because of your help, my political action committee . . . is supporting over 70 candidates this election cycle. Your continued support today will ensure that they have the assistance they need to win."
This doesn't mention, the paper reports, spending donations on "salaries and consulting fees to over a half-dozen of Romney's longtime political aides" or "professional fund-raisers, who are compiling contributor lists that will serve Romney well in a future presidential campaign."
The Boston Globe thus speculates that Mitt Romney is using contributions to his PAC to build a donor list for 2012. That is what they wrote, even though Romney's contributor list was the envy of the GOP field during the primary season.
Alas, the paper points out, Romney's PAC did not donate money to the candidates who need the Mitt largesse.
Qualifying for a donation from the committee did not necessarily depend on a candidate's need for financial assistance. US Representative Rodney Alexander of Louisiana got $4,600 and his GOP colleague Lamar S. Smith of Texas received a $2,300 donation, although both had no opponents. They each had endorsed Romney in his presidential bid.
Mississippi's US Senator Thad Cochran, who threw his support for Romney, was easily favored to win reelection, but he still got a $2,300 donation from the committee. Cochran won with 62 percent of the vote. Another Republican senator, Lamar Alexander, a popular Tennessee Republican who was under no threat of losing his seat, got a $2,300 check from Romney as he cruised to victory with 65 percent of the vote.
Romney's committee gave $2,300 to US Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia, another backer in his presidential race who faced minimal opposition and won reelection with 68 percent of the vote. Another Republican House member, Kay Granger, who has not faced any serious opposition in the last several election cycles, got a $2,300 check and went on to win with 67 percent of the vote. She, too, had endorsed his presidential candidacy.
There is nothing illegal about repaying for favors, and besides, Romney's peeps say the main purpose of the PAC was to jet Romney around the country speaking on behalf of candidates.
I'm not prepared to draw the conclusions of the Boston Globe, and as long as it is legal, I'm not going to insist that Romney spends his PAC money in the manner he indicated when soliciting it. I suspect this will blow over, because I'm certain that whatever Romney's PAC was doing, the Boston Globe would have spun it and called it investigative journalism.
If you somehow remember this in 2012, or will it be as a footnote to a footnote most notable for its transparency of purpose?