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Inside the super PACs money deluge

Harold Simmons
Harold Simmons Courtesy Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News

Updated Feb. 22, 2:55 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- The super PACs have a new king, for the moment -- Texas tycoon Harold Simmons, according to a CBS News review of Federal Election Commission records.

Simmons and his company, Contran, gave another $5.6 million to super PACs last month, highlighted by his $5 million to "American Crossroads," the Karl Rove-founded, all-Republican backing group that is mostly sitting on its money.

Combined with his 2011 giving of $8.5 million, Simmons has donated at least $14.1 million to super PACs this campaign season, the latest fundraising disclosure reports to FEC show. That makes the Dallas billionaire currently the nation's largest super PAC donor. "American Crossroads" has received $12 million from Simmons, or 85 percent of his donations.

Simmons, who also gave six-figures to the pro-Gingrich, pro-Romney, and pro-Perry super PACs, is no stranger to Republican politics. Most notable was his $3 million in 2004 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which produced ads doubting the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

If Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson's comes through with an additional $10 million pledged to the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC "Winning Our Future," he would resume his top spot on the Super PAC throne. Adelson and family have given $11 million to pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future, FEC records show.

Forty-something Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has now given a total $2.6 million to the leading pro-Ron Paul super PAC "Endorse Liberty," which makes him currently the nation's third largest super PAC donor.

Wyoming-based multi-millionaire investor Foster Friess's reported donations to the pro-Rick Santorum Super PAC "Red White and Blue Fund" is now total $1 million -- $669,000 in January plus his previous $331,000 in December, FEC records show.

Friess and Louisiana-based energy company founder William Dore, who also gave $1 million in January, alone are responsible for more than two-thirds of total receipts to the Fund, which is financing pro-Santorum TV ads in Michigan.

Dore's only previous political donation was the federal maximum of $5,000 to four-term Louisiana GOP congressman Charles Boustany, in 2011, according to a searchable donor database by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The pro-Romney super PAC "Restore Our Future" still has the most $1 million dollar donors -- twelve -- and has raised and spent the most money of any candidate-specific PAC. The Marriott brothers, JW (aka. "Bill") and Richard, just two of -- now 13 -- billionaire donors to "Restore our Future," have each now individually given a total $750,000 to the group. The group's 13th billionaire donor, disclosed in yesterday's FEC filing, is New York investor Bruce Kovner, who gave $500,000 on Jan. 17. He's worth $4.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, good enough to rank 73rd on last year's "Forbes 400." Another notable, new multi-millionaire "Restore Our Future" donor is software entrepreneur Marc Andreesen, who gave $50,000 on Jan. 16, the FEC report shows.

Of its $37 million raised through January, "Restore Our Future" had spent more than $20 million -- the $14 million spent in January combined with the $6.5 million spent in 2011.

Most of those expenditures have been on negative TV ads attacking Romney rival Newt Gingrich. The group has also noticed the FEC of some twenty more expenditures in February.

"Restore Our Future" is responsible for 45-percent of all presidential super PAC spending in Campaign 2012 -- a total $46 million date, as tabulated by the Center for Responsive Politics and also the Sunlight Foundation.

"Winning Our Future" has spent $11 million, or 23 percent of the total; the defunct pro-Rick Perry Super PAC Make Us Great Again spent $4 million, or 9 percent, followed by "Endorse Liberty" and "Red White and Blue Fund," each over $3 million or around 6.5 percent of the total.

The only other super PAC to spend seven figures was the pro-Jon Huntsman "Our Destiny," which spent $3.3 million, after receiving a total of $2.2 million from Jon Huntsman, Sr., the candidate's billionaire industrialist father, and the nation's fourth most generous individual Super PAC donor.

Huntsman's $335,000 contribution in January elevated him above Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, the fifth biggest super PAC player, having given $2 million to the pro-Obama "Priorities USA Action" last May.

Of some 14,000 Romney donors who have given the maximum $2,500 allowed during the primaries to the candidate's campaign committee and more than 350 disclosed Restore Our Future donors of various, unlimited amounts, 172 gave to both, accounting for 85 percent of the super PAC funds, according to Democracy 21, the Center For Responsive Politics, and the Campaign Legal Center.

The trio of watchdog groups also found, by comparison, the Obama campaign and super PAC supporting him has fifteen "double dippers" among its 55 donors, while team Santorum has nine, and teams Gingrich and Paul each have five. There were 43 double-dipping Rick Perry supporters before he dropped out of the race.


Here are highlights of the FEC reports disclosed yesterday:

"Restore our Future" (pro-Romney):

Total raised in January: $6.6 million.

Total spent in January: $13.9 million.

"Restore our Future" came into February with $16 million cash on hand.

*Unlike previous filings for Restore Our Future, no donations over $500,000.

*19 donations from businesses as opposed to individuals.

Notable donations:

*Meg Whitman, chief exectuive of Hewlett-Packard Co. and a former head of eBay: $100,000

*Jim & Alice Walton, sibling heirs to Walmart fortune, each gave $100,000, again

*JW "Bill" Marriott and Richard Marriott, hotel chain heirs, each gave $250,000, again

*Harold Simmons, of Contran Corp., gave $100,000

"Winning our Future" (pro-Gingrich)

Total raised in January: $11 million.

Total spent in January: $9.7 million.

"Winning our Future" had $2.4 million at the beginning of February

Notable donations:

*Sheldon Adelson, of the Sands Corporation, and his wife, Miriam, each gave $5 million

*Harold Simmons gave $500,000

"Red White and Blue Fund" (pro- Santorum)

Total Raised in January: $2 million

Total spent in January: $1.5 million

"Red White and Blue Fund" had $600,000 at the beginning of February

Notable donations:

*William Dore, Sr., retired founder of Global Industries, Ltd, gave $1 million dollars

*Foster Friess, of Friess Capital Managment, gave two donations totaling $669,000

*Kimber Manufacturing in Yonkers, NY, gave $100,000, the first donation from a gun company to a Super PAC

"Endorse Liberty" (pro-Ron Paul)

Total raised in January: $2.4 million.

Total spent in January: $2.9 million.

"Endorse Liberty" had $60,000 at the beginning of February.

Notable donations:

*Peter Thiel, of Clarium Capital Management, gave $1.7 million

Priorities USA Action (pro-Obama)

Total raised in January:$58,815.

Total spent in January: $258,025.

"Priorities USA Action" had $1.3 million at the beginning of February.

Notable donations:

*John Rogers, of Ariel Capital, longtime Obama donor, gave $50,000

"American Crossroads" (pro-Republican)

Total Raised: $5,071,849

Total Spent: $279,000

"American Crossroads" had more than $20 million at the beginning of February

Notable donations:

*Harold Simmons gave $5 million

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