Romney’s Super-PAC Attack Machine, Brought to You by Big Finance

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-143386p1.html?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Christopher Halloran</a> / <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com</a>

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Mitt Romney’s thumping victory in Florida on Tuesday was due in part to the wave of negative ads barraging his opponent, Newt Gingrich, in the week before the primary. Sixty-eight percent of all Florida primary ads attacked Gingrich, and it was the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future leading the charge, spending $13.3 million to tear down Gingrich—more than all the other super-PACs combined.

Late Tuesday night, after Romney’s win was in the bag, the public discovered the funders behind this anti-Newt assault. The key takeaway: FIRE.

FIRE is short for the “finance, insurance, and real estate” sector. According to a new disclosure filing with the Federal Election Commission, $11.7 million of the nearly $18 million raked in by Restore Our Future in the second half of 2011 came from the FIRE sector—financiers, investment bankers, Bain Capital directors, real estate developers, and more. That’s 65 percent of all the money Restore Our Future raised. Put another way, 93 of the 199 donations to Restore Our Future came from members of the FIRE sector.

Who are these wealthy donors? They include hedge fund managers Paul Singer and Julian Robertson; Steven Roth, CEO of commercial real estate giant Vornado; GOP mega-donor and home-building magnate Bob Perry; and Kenneth Griffin, founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm.

Even with the FIRE sector’s backing, though, Restore Our Future’s windfall and Romney’s own haul of nearly $40 million in the second half of 2011 doesn’t match President Obama’s campaign war chest. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama and supporting super-PACs have raised $125 million for his re-election effort; for Romney, the figure is closer to $88 million.

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That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

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