A small group of Jewish private equity investors, hedge fund managers and real estate developers are playing an outsized role in Republican hopeful Mitt Romney’s fundraising efforts.
Top Jewish donors account for more than 10% of the $36 million raised by Romney’s super PAC.
While Romney has long been the consensus pick of establishment Jewish Republicans, many of the super PAC’s biggest Jewish givers are outside that establishment group. A few have hardly any history of Republican giving, and some gave thousands in individual donations to the Obama campaign in 2008.
“It sounds like these guys, they have a personal vested interest in making sure [Obama] gets beat,” said Fred Zeidman, a prominent fundraiser for the Romney campaign, of the Jewish super PAC donors in the financial services industry.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Romney’s super PAC, called Restore Our Future, has spent $30 million campaigning against Romney’s opponents and $900,000 in support of the former Massachusetts governor.
Created in 2010 by a series of judicial rulings, super PACs differ from traditional political action committees in that federal regulations don’t limit the amount donors can contribute. While a super PAC cannot formally coordinate its activities with a candidate, it can explicitly support a particular one. So while individual donors were previously limited to giving their candidate a few thousand dollars in an election year, now they can give as much as they want.
The emergence of super PACs in the 2012 presidential race has changed the way in which money and influence work. Big political moneymen previously raised funds from friends and colleagues. While the campaigns still maintain their networks of fundraisers, super PACs now allow individuals to give as much as a major bundler would have raised from scores of givers.
The top ranks of the super PAC donors are necessarily limited to the ultra-wealthy. Romney’s super PAC in particular is well seeded with hedge fund managers and private equity investors, including people associated with Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded. While people from other industries, demographics and interest groups may be fundraising for Romney, the campaign has not disclosed its list of volunteer fundraisers. The Obama campaign has released its list of 2012 volunteer fundraisers, and all presidential campaigns revealed their bundlers in 2008.
One of the Romney campaign’s major Jewish volunteer fundraisers, former Republican National Committee finance chairman Mel Sembler, said that the super PAC attracts a certain sort of donor. “They’re probably usually business associates, close friends and major supporters of Romney,” Sembler said. “I think it all depends on who the people running the super PAC know.”
Sembler, like other big GOP Jewish bundlers, is a board member of the RJC. While some of the Jewish givers to the super PAC fit that profile, others don’t.
The Forward identified a dozen Jews among the 120 donors of $100,000 or more to Restore Our Future as of the end of January.