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New Political Money Flows To Romney

The Republican gets $50,000 or more from 22 people who haven't given big political money before. Obama's new donors: Bill Maher, Chelsea Handler, and five more.

Posted on July 13, 2012, at 10:57 a.m. ET

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Mitt Romney's campaign for president has benefitted from a surge of new political money, as his allies in the finance world spend big on politics for the first time in their lives.

An analysis of top contributors to the candidates' SuperPACs, which can accept unlimited contributions, found 22 people who hadn't given more than $15,000 to federal politicians in the past, and yet who gave $50,000 or more to Romney's SuperPAC, Restore Our Future. The Obama SuperPAC, Priorities USA Action, has seven such donors.

That surge of new money helps explain how Restore Our Future raised $27,956,700 from donors giving $50,000 or more while Priorities USA Action raise $8,200,000 from that group.

Restore Our Future’s new donors are almost exclusively top executives at capital management and real estate companies: J.W. Marriott of Marriott; John Griffin of Blue Ridge Capital; and Alan Fournier of Pennant Capital Management, among others.

The new money is in large part the product of a network built over the lifetime Romney has spent raising large sums for his businesses, the Olympics, and his church.

“Romney’s circle of associates who are running the SuperPACS are pretty well connected in that world socially, and social ties tend to be very important in fundraising,” said Bertram Johnson, an associate professor of political science at Middlebury College.

But Romney's background and his policy stands also appeal to these titans of the privately-held hubs of the private sector.

"The whole SuperPAC concept appeals to people who are not in favor of over-regulation, so it makes sense that people in the financial world would like that," said Cindy Darrison, a veteran New York Democratic fundraiser. "This is a way for people to respond to Obama in the manner in which they prefer—an unregulated manner."

The big new donors to Obama’s SuperPAC, by contrast, hail from the left-leaning provinces of entertainment and the health care industry. Stand-up comics Bill Maher of “Real Time with Bill Maher” and Chelsea Handler of “Chelsea Lately” contributed 1,000,000 and 100,000 to Priorities USA Action, respectively. None of the donors responded to requests for comment.

Democrats, meanwhile, are shaking the bushes in a frantic effort to close the gap.

“This month is going to be very important to see if they can catch up,” Johnson said, referring to Obama’s SuperPAC. “Around Labor Day, when fall campaigns start, the Super PAC directors are going to be focusing more on how to allocate their money and less on the actual fundraising.”