WASHINGTON: Campaign finance filings with the government now show that the cost of the 2012 U.S. presidential race surpassed $2 billion, a new record.
The new tallies released Thursday, include nearly $86 million in fundraising by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the election’s final weeks.
The campaign’s record expenditures on media ads were fueled by eye-popping amounts donated to “super” political action committees, including at least $95 million supporting Romney and other Republicans that came from a billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate.
Casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave $23 million to a super PAC headed by GOP strategist Karl Rove and $10 million to a pro-Romney political committee in recent weeks.
By late October, both campaigns already had neared $1 billion in expenditures, and super PACs supporting President Barack Obama and Romney had spent more than $500 million in media ads. Politically-oriented nonprofit “social welfare” organizations that do not have to declare their finances or identify their fundraisers have spent hundreds of millions more on so-called issue ads.
Adelson, who owns casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore and the Chinese territory of Macau, vowed early on in the presidential race that his political donations would top $100 million by the November election. His postelection super PAC total does not match that figure, but the casino magnate also hinted he would also give millions more to GOP-leaning nonprofits that do not have to report their war chests to the FEC, but instead provide confidential figures to the Internal Revenue Service.
Along with his dominant presence in the presidential race, Adelson also poured money into super PACs backing several GOP Senate candidates in the final weeks of the election. More than $1.5 million in Adelson money went to a super PAC backing GOP candidate George Allen in Virginia, $1 million to a committee aiding Michigan candidate Peter Hoekstra and $500,000 to a super PAC supporting Sen. Scott Brown. All were defeated.
Other top last-minute donors to the pro-Romney Restore committee included Larry Ellison, head of software giant Oracle Corp., who gave $3 million, and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair, who gave $1 million. The Renco Group, a New York company headed by investor Ira Rennert, also gave $1 million.
Adelson recently told the Wall Street Journal that he would double his $100 investment in GOP causes by the next election and he has the financial muscle to do it.
But his role as the premier fundraiser in American politics could be complicated by his casino company’s continuing struggles with the federal government over tax revenues and Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigations focusing on possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which targets money-laundering and international bribery.
Adelson’s Sands casino company’s recent quarterly statement acknowledged the federal probes as well as negotiations with the IRS over “unrecognized tax benefits” highlighted by a tax audit on its Macao and Singapore casino earnings between 2005 and 2009.