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Millions thrown at presidential race
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WASHINGTON (AP) — With just over a year left in the race for the White House, campaign finance reports released Saturday offered the first detailed look at the haves and the have-nots among the Republican presidential candidates.
Two of the top Republican contenders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have brought in more than $30 million combined. Meanwhile, candidates like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain raised significantly less.
The financial reports show how flush some GOP candidates are with cash — and how nearly broke others are — heading into the final weeks before contests in key primary states. Reports on two of the biggest money-raisers so far — Romney and President Barack Obama — reveal millions in contributions from party devotees and small donors alike.
At the same time, reports filed late Friday offered a mixed picture of the field, with Obama raising more than $70 million between his campaign and the Democratic Party. Some candidates are saddled with debt, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
The reports didn’t capture the tens of millions raised by new, outside groups known as super political action committees, which can collect unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Leading contenders Perry and Romney have at least one super PAC each working to boost their candidacies, and another group is backing Obama’s re-election bid.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a favorite among libertarians, collected $8.2 million, spent $7.5 million during the period and has no debt. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum reported raising more than $700,000 during the quarter, spent nearly $750,000 and owes about $70,000.
But some in the GOP field owe much more, particularly as their campaigns struggle to compete with big money that fuels increasingly expensive elections.
Gingrich owes the most among all candidates who have filed so far, with more than $1.1 million in debts for expenses like office supplies, direct mail and outside experts — including $5,250 for a "Hispanic outreach consultant" and $724 for a "social media consultation." His campaign raised about $793,000 this period, about a third of which came from small donors.
Bachmann, a leading tea party figure, reported nearly $550,000 in debt after raising $3.9 million. Her expenses included more than $130,000 spent on chartered flights with Moby Dick Airways of Virginia. She also owes former campaign chair Ed Rollins about $30,000.
And while businessman Herman Cain's report said he raised $2.8 million and has $1.3 million in the bank, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO loaned his campaign $675,000, most of it borrowed in the spring.
Candidates with much more cash on hand means more money for advertising and overhead costs. But it also means more flexibility: Romney spent about $240,000 in private jets, although he has tweeted in the past about flying commercial on low-cost air carrier Southwest Airlines.
Romney, like his opponents, garnered support from small-dollar donors, drawing 80 percent of his contributions from checks less than $250. A former venture capitalist, he raised $18 million during the previous April-June period.