HALL COLUMN: Romney uses Alabama as leverage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 1, 2007

Former Massachussetts Mitt Romney has effectively used Alabama as a political bagman by exploiting a legal loophole in federal campaign finance laws.

Romney did nothing illegal nor unethical, though he can never honestly push for tougher campaign finance laws with a straight face. (Thought once we consider his many stances on abortion, an about-face on campaign finance reform will look like an easy stunt to pull off.)

Alabama is one of a handful of states that allows unlimited donations to state political action committees, unlike federal campaign finance laws that cap donations. But Romney, as a governor, was not a federal candidate until this month, so he was exempt from such campaign laws.

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Therefore, he found his way to three states where political money flows as freely as water over Niagra Falls &045; Iowa, Michigan and, you guessed it, Alabama.

In 2006, Commonwealth PAC &045; Romney’s political organization here &045; collected $277,600 from 11 donors. That’s an average of more than $25,000 per donor. Ironically, none of these donors came from Alabama.

Romney friends and supporters from Massachusetts, Utah, Florida, Illinois and California wrote checks and sent them down here to help Romney in his political aspirations.

As a way of saying thank-you to the state for using us as a bagman, Romney dispersed $138,500 to Republican candidates and organizations. Depending on how you look at &045; win-loss versus expenditure percentage &045; he didn’t do too bad with the horses he backed.

Commonwealth PAC donated to 34 candidates, 19 of whom won their races. All but three of the donations were to legislative candidates. The remaining were to Luther Strange, who failed in his bid to win the lieutenant governor’s race; Jefferson County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins, who won re-election; and Judge Reese McKinney, who returned to his seat as a Montgomry County Probate Judge.

The biggest benefactors of Romney’s Commonwealth PAC were Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston with $10,000, failed Senate candidate John McMillan of Stockton with $7,000, Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn with $15,000 and Strange with $12,000.

Romney’s shared the wealth with a few Republican organizations as well. The Alabama Republican Party received $12,000 of his booty.

After he paid the Alabama pipers, Romney dispersed the rest of

Boston Globe columnist Peter S. Canellos says to understand Romney’s approach to politics you have to look at his career as a venture capitalist. Looking at a politician’s professional career prior to entering the political world is the best indicator of how that person will approach campaigning and governing.