By Neil King Jr. And Brody Mullins | WSJ | Apr. 2, 2012
In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party's front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama.
The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That's far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.
The move reflects a general clamor within the party to begin amassing the funds needed to compete with Mr. Obama's fundraising operation, Romney and RNC advisers said. "Our donors are ready to mobilize for November," said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson. For the Republican nominee to be able to compete with the president's re-election effort, "they need to get started now."
Acknowledging that the nomination fight isn't over, the RNC also invited other candidates to participate in joint fundraising, but with little expectation they would agree, RNC officials said. A spokesman for Newt Gingrich said he didn't plan to work alongside the RNC. Rick Santorum's campaign said they had no plans to join forces, but "would be happy to raise money with the RNC." Ron Paul's campaign declined comment. It makes little sense for challengers scrapping for cash in the primaries to ask donors to give large sums to the party, GOP operatives said.
Eyeing potential wins Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, the Romney campaign also plans to move this week to raising funds for the general election, a step it has delayed for months as all donations have gone to fund Mr. Romney's primary campaign.
"We're already a little behind where we should be. The sooner we get at this, the better," said Brian Ballard, one of Mr. Romney's top fundraisers in Florida and a member of his national finance team.
The RNC launched similar arrangements for Sen. John McCain in early March 2008, just weeks before he sealed the GOP nomination. What makes this move unusual is that Mr. Romney may not amass all the delegates he needs until mid-June.
R.C. Hammond, a Gingrich spokesman, rejected the perception that it was a move to galvanize support for Mr. Romney. "This is a standard thing that any party does in the springtime of an election year," he said. "This race is still all about delegates and will be all about delegates right up to the convention."
Top Republican officials have decided they no longer want to wait around for an official nominee. Creating a joint committee allows donors to give to several pro-Romney efforts at once. In addition to $2,500 each that can be donated to Mr. Romney's primary and general-election campaigns, donors can contribute up to $30,800 to the RNC, which will spend those funds in the fall campaign against Mr. Obama.
Donors also could contribute up to $10,000 to state-level Republican parties in key presidential battleground states, such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada, to spend locally to help the Republican presidential candidate. (They can't give more than $40,000 to state parties if they have donated $30,800 to the RNC.)
The arrangement allows donations that could top $75,000 per person. Couples can write a single check of double that amount.
Mr. Obama created a joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee last fall, and it so far has helped to raise $126 million for his campaign. In 2008, he raised $198 million in joint money with the DNC, versus $218 million that Mr. McCain and the RNC raised together, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Obama campaign raised $750 million four years ago and has raised $157 million so far this cycle. The DNC has raised about $158 million.