Lately, Mitt Romney has been so consumed with fundraising that his aides have had to defend his absence from the stump. Like his foe, the Republican nominee is in the midst of a frenzied financial arms race. But one hugely wealthy individual has not yet been persuaded to part with much cash to support the Republican cause: Mitt Romney himself.
Mitt Romney is hardly the first wealthy individual to seek the White House. John F. Kennedy once quipped he had received a telegram from his father: “Don’t buy another vote. I won’t pay for a landslide.” But Romney, for whatever reason, has failed to use his personal wealth to pay his campaign’s bills. His refusal to self-finance is one of the mysteries of this campaign.
After all, if Romney were to help fund his own bid, he would have ample company. In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would violate the First Amendment to limit what candidates can spend on their own behalf. Ever since, wealthy office-seekers commonly have ponied up. John Kerry lent more than $6 million to fund his Iowa caucus drive in 2003. Hillary Clinton lent her campaign over $11 million four years later. Steve Forbes gave his 1996 campaign $32 million, and spent nearly $37 million four years after that. Ross Perot spent $63 million to finish strongly in 1992, back when that was real money.
In fact, four years ago the former governor gave his own campaign nearly $45 million. He even donated a Winnebago trailer. “I’m not beholden to any particular group for getting me into this race or for getting me elected,” ABC News quoted him as saying. “My family, that’s the only one I’m really beholden to — they’re the ones who let their inheritance slip away, dollar by dollar.”
The Romney boys can sleep easy: Their dad’s assets are worth nearly $250 million, according to financial disclosure forms. But he has put only $150,000 into this year’s run, through a joint gift with his wife Ann to a Republican committee last spring.