* Obama raised $181 million, set 2012 record
* Romney does not control large portion of money
* September saw release of '47 percent' video
* Monday kicks off big Romney donor gathering in New York
By Alina Selyukh and Alexander Cohen
WASHINGTON, Oct 15 Republican presidential
challenger Mitt Romney and his allies raised $170.5 million in
September, the campaign said on Monday, falling just short of
the 2012 fundraising record set last month by Democratic rival
President Barack Obama.
Republicans began October with $191.2 million in cash on
hand - money ready to be spent on advertising, get-out-the-vote
efforts, staff, offices, rallies and other campaigning in the
weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Much of the haul, however, was
not likely to directly benefit Romney's election bid.
Obama and the Democratic National Committee already have
reported raising $181 million in September, the best mark so far
in the most expensive presidential election campaign in U.S.
history. They did not disclose how much they had left in cash on
September was the second consecutive month in which the
Democrats out-raised Romney's team after three months of the
Republicans leading the way in fundraising.
It was also one of the toughest months for Romney: his
position weakened in the polls first as a result of the new
focus shifting to the Democratic Party Convention and then to a
secretly filmed video that showed him calling 47 percent of
Americans who receive government funds "victims."
Romney regained footing earlier this month when he delivered
a strong performance against Obama in the first presidential
debate on Oct. 3. Campaign officials said the debate kicked up
donations and helped the Republican candidate gain on the
incumbent in the polls just weeks ahead of Election Day.
"With less than one month left, we will continue the hard
work of raising the resources to ensure that Mitt Romney and
Paul Ryan can win in November and bring real change to the
American people," said Spencer Zwick, Romney's finance chairman.
Obama has since regained a slim lead in the tight race. The
Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll on Monday showed him at 47
percent compared with Romney's 45 percent.
"This race is tied," Obama said in an email to supporters
asking for last-minute donations on Monday. "What we do over the
next 22 days will determine not just the next four years, but
what this country looks like for decades to come."
ROMNEY'S CASH THAT ISN'T HIS
Since Romney became the party nominee in April, he and the
RNC have fundraised together, pulling cash into their separate
funds as well as a joint account known as the "Romney Victory."
Because the fund's disclosures are released quarterly, much
of the Republican cash had been sitting under wraps until
Monday, when new filings showed that in the third quarter of the
year, the joint fund raised $235.2 million - beating the second
quarter haul of $140.3 million.
But most of that cash - at least $214.4 million - does not
belong to the Romney campaign: A donor can only give $35,800 to
benefit a candidate and the party and at most $5,000 of that can
go into the candidate's coffers.
Anything given beyond that amount to the Romney Victory fund
is slated to benefit state Republican parties, the National
Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican
Reuters calculations showed that of all the money brought
into the Romney Victory fund, only as much as $161.1 million
belongs to the Romney campaign, while at least $54.6 million is
booked for state parties and congressional committees.
Obama and the DNC also have a joint "Victory" fund but the
Obama campaign keeps the vast majority of its cash under its own
control - which affords it more flexibility in deciding how and
when to spend it.
DONORS AND FUNDRAISERS
Romney's financial operation has relied heavily on large
checks written by wealthy supporters, in contrast to the Obama
campaign, which has been aggressively courting such donors as
well but relies mostly on smaller contributions.
The Romney campaign said it received more than 1 million
donations in September in checks of less than $250, which were
responsible for a total of $43.2 million.
Of all the cash received, 93 percent of all donations were
of $250 or less, the campaign said. That means some $127 million
was raised through less than 7 percent of the donations.
The Romney campaign continued to court large donors this
week as some of the most influential of them gathered at a
luxury hotel in Manhattan for a three-day "fall retreat" that
The gathering was expected to include "special guests"
including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, real estate
magnate and reality TV star Donald Trump, and Oklahoma oilman
and Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm.
Others expected to attend include Charles Schwab Corp
CEO Charles Schwab and Jimmy John's sandwich franchise
CEO Jimmy John Liautaud, according to an invitation posted by
the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that seeks more
transparency in campaign finance.
Major fund-raisers and donors were scheduled to attend
election strategy meetings with top Romney campaign staff and
mingle with vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Romney had originally planned to join in, but changed plans
on Monday to prepare for the second presidential debate against
Obama on Tuesday night at New York's Hofstra University.
Obama's campaign, which holds the all-time fundraising
record for its 2008 efforts, said it had held its last
fundraising event last week. In 2008, Obama's campaign and the
DNC together brought in $193 million in September and came close
to raising $1 billion overall.