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Super PAC disclosures: Simmons hedges his bets; PayPal co-founder hearts Ron Paul

by Anupama Narayanswamy, Kathy Kiely and Jacob Fenton

Monday was the day that super PACs on a monthly filing schedule file financial disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission.  Sunlight Foundation's Reporting Group is watching as they go online to see who is writing big checks. Highlights so far:

  • American Crossroads, which put super PACs on the map in the last election cycle with mega-donations to GOP candidates, took in just over $5 million in January, almost all of it from one man: Harold Simmons, a major Republican donor who also has written checks to super PACs backing three of the party's presidential candidates.
  • The super PAC supporting Rick Santorum saw its contributions soar, along with the former Pennsylvania senator's performance in the polls. The Red, White and Blue Fund reported more than $2 million in contributions last month, more than double the take in the PAC's December report. Nearly half the January contributions came from a single individual: William Dore, president of the Louisiana- and Texas-based Dore Energy Corp., gave $1 million. That bested the $669,000 given by Santorum's sometimes discomfitingly outspoken backer, Foster Friess. Santorum's PAC also got $100,000 from Kimber Manufacturing, a New York-based gunmaker, and returned $50,000 as a prohibited foreign contribution from Liquid Capital Markets of London. One other potential problem: The firm reportedly operates an IT facility in China. Santorum has made the revival of domestic manufacturing a central tenet of his campaign.
  • Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing President Obama, raised a modest $58,815 in January. The lion's share -- $50,000 -- came from John Rogers, a Chicago investor and close friend of the president. The super PAC spent  $76,115 to advertise against Mitt Romney. Among other big outlays: a $20,000 fee for CNN commentator and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. Priorities also reported a $4,690 "in-kind" contribution from Priorities USA, a sister organization which is exempt from taxes and from campaign rules requiring the disclosure of donors. The super PAC ended the month with more than $1.3 million in the bank.
  • Restore Our Future, one of the first major presidential super PACs to file its February report listed receipts of $6.61 million in the last month, taking their total receipts to $23.62 million. Major donors include Joseph Craft, president of Alliance Coal and David Lisonbee, CEO, 4Life Research, LLC, both donating $500,000 to the pro-Romney Super PAC.
  • Texas businessman Harold Simmons gave $100,000 to Restore Our Future -- chump change compared to what he's given others.  January's $5 million contribution to Crossroads came on top of an earlier $5 million contribution that he made in November to the group founded by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and former President George W. Bush's political strategist, Karl Rove. In addition, Simmons'  company, Contran Corp., gave $2 million to Crossroads in October.
  • Simmons is playing the field. He's also given $500,000 to Winning Our Future, the Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich and $100,000 to Restoring Prosperity Fund, the Super PAC started to support Rick Perry when the Texas governor was still a contender in the GOP presidential bid. Simmons is a major donor to GOP candidates and political party committees  and was a bundler for former presidential candidate John McCain.
  • Would Newt Gingrich be a viable candidate without Sheldon Adelson? Of the $10.95 million in contributions reported by Winning the Future, the super PAC backing the former House speaker, $10 million came from the casino mogul and his wife, Miriam.
  • Endorse Liberty, which is supporting Ron Paul, reported $1.7 million in contributions from Paul Thiel, the PayPal co-founder who now runs hedge fund Clarium Capital. That was more than 70 percent of the $2.37 million Endorse Liberty reported raising.