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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a visit to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., on Thursday.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a visit to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., on Thursday.
AP Photo by Toby Talbot

GOP presidential candidate's state PAC pulls in $514,535

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used Alabama’s campaign finance laws, which place no limits on individual contributions, to raise $514,535 in the state before announcing his candidacy for president.

All the contributions collected by Romney’s Commonwealth Political Action Committee came from outside Alabama, according to campaign finance reports the PAC filed with the secretary of state.

Federal law limits individuals contributions to $2,300 per election. But Romney didn’t come under that restriction until he became a candidate.

Before then, his political team set up PACs in three states that have no limits on individual contributions: Michigan, Iowa and Alabama. The PACs were first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

The Alabama PAC was funded entirely by out-of-state contributions and most of them were much larger than the $2,300 limit that would later come into play. The contributions included $100,000 each from business executives Muneer Satter of Chicago and Wayne Hughes of Glendale, Calif.

The PAC reported using its money to pay staff and consultants and to help some Republican candidates in Alabama. Among the donations it reported was $2,500 to State Treasurer Kay Ivey on Sept. 15. Last month Romney announced Ivey would head his exploratory committee in Alabama.

Republican Secretary of State Beth Chapman, Alabama’s chief election official, said the Romney contributions and expenditures are legal.

Democrats agree, but they still don’t like it.

State Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, said the PAC and its actions violate the spirit of federal law. He is a proponent of strengthening campaign finance laws in Alabama and introduces a bill every year in the Legislature to ban transfers between political action committees.

“I am disappointed to see once again that Alabama is singled out as one of those states that are easy for people to operate in,” McLaughlin told the Mobile Press-Register.

“Alabama routinely scores low on campaign disclosure laws, and it’s no surprise to me that Alabama is a place where people want to stash money, hide money and then spend it out as they want to without much oversight,” he said.

Zac McCrary, communications director for the Alabama Democratic Party, said the Legislature “should consider cracking down on this loophole that lets candidates funnel out-of-state money into Alabama to influence our elections.”

Republican Gov. Bob Riley said Romney did nothing wrong. “I think contributions that came into the state of Alabama and into several other states that have similar laws are perfectly viable and legal,” he told the Press-Register.

Alabama’s presidential preference primary will be on Feb. 5, 2008.

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Information from: Press-Register, http://www.al.com/mobileregister

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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