Gov. Mitt Romney and gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman
In political fundraising, as in life, it seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
As former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., once again gears up his national fundraising apparatus for another shot at the presidency, many of the big donors supporting him in California have also given thousands to his protege: Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
State and federal fundraising reports show that more than two dozen of the donors who gave at least $5,000 to Romney's Free and Strong America PAC – the maximum allowed annually by PAC fundraising rules – also gave more than $386,000 to Whitman, who once worked for Romney at the consulting firm Bain & Co.
For his part, Romney seems to have landed Whitman several donors who, until recently, were not especially active in California politics. In April, Romney appeared with Whitman at a Los Angeles fundraiser and later e-mailed supporters asking them to back Whitman.
"Meg was an early and tireless supporter of my presidential campaign," Romney wrote in the e-mail. "I consider her a loyal friend and one of the first people I would turn to for advice."
From 1981 to 1989, Whitman worked as a consultant and senior vice president for Bain & Co., the management consulting firm that Romney co-founded in 1973. (Romney left in 1984 to form Bain Capital, a private equity firm.) Whitman supported Romney's 2008 campaign for president, serving as finance co-chair of his exploratory committee and on his national finance team.
Bain & Co. executives have given Whitman a combined $134,300 in donations. They included partner Thomas Holland, of Orinda ($25,900), and founder William Bain ($18,900).
In December, Whitman issued a statement highlighting her relationship with Romney, saying: "If anyone recognizes the talents and skills needed to turn around a state in crisis, it’s Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor believes Meg Whitman is the only leader who 'has the ability to get California working again.'" Romney appeared at the California Republican Party convention two months later to support Whitman.
Among the donors that maxed out to both Whitman and Romney are Jonathan Bullen, a Utah businessman and long-time Romney supporter who only became active in California politics in 2009; San Francisco-investor Gregory Wendt, who has also given to a Romney rival, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and Gene Sykes, a managing director of the investment bank Goldman Sachs.
During his last run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, Romney opened a branch of his Commonwealth PAC – a leadership PAC similar to his Free and Strong America organization – in California, but records show it was largely inactive.
He has yet to establish a branch of his new leadership PAC here, but his fundraising and infrastructure in other states, including key primary battlegrounds like Iowa, have begun to position him ahead of other GOP-ers in advance of the 2012 elections.