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Pro-Romney super PAC pulls ahead on LI

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, talks

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, talks with an unidentified spectator at the opening day of swimming competitions at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (July 28, 2012) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- A super PAC is tipping the money race on Long Island in favor of presumed Republican candidate Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama, an analysis of new campaign data shows.

Obama and Romney remain neck-and-neck in money raised on Long Island from January 2011 through the end of June by traditional fundraising committees -- $3.2 million to $3.4 million, respectively -- reports filed a week ago show.

But when the $2.4 million in funds raised by Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Romney's bid for the White House, are added in, Long Island's total for Romney jumps to $5.8 million. Only three Long Islanders have donated to Priorities USA in the same period, a super PAC supporting Obama, for a total of $11,200.

"I'm surprised at the degree of the gap," said Meena Bose, a presidential scholar at Hofstra University. "What's interesting is the evidence of Wall Street shifting toward Romney."

Campaign funds matter because they pay for advertising that could affect the outcome of what's expected to be a close election, political analysts say.

"In elections where the margin is likely to matter -- and 2012 is looking like an election where the margin can matter -- those ads can be decisive," said Ken Goldstein, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Newsday analyzed Long Island donations to each side's four key funds -- a presidential fund, a party fund, a joint fund between the candidate and the party, and the super PACs.

It found that in the ad war, super PACs, especially Restore Our Future, have emerged as a new and potent factor this year, after court rulings in 2010 struck down some federal campaign-fund restrictions.

These new political action committees can raise an unlimited amount of money, with no caps for individuals and no restrictions on corporate or labor union donations, to spend on ads for or against candidates.

The super PACs by law must operate independently of the presidential campaigns, but in practice are run by close former aides of the candidates.

Nationally, Restore Our Future has raised $82.2 million from just a few hundred donors. It has spent $53.9 million on ads, most of them attacking Romney's Republican rivals in the primaries and, now, Obama.

Restore Our Future raised most of its Long Island funds from two billionaire financiers.

Julian Robertson of Locust Valley, founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund, gave it $1.25 million, and Robert Mercer of East Setauket, co-chief executive of hedge fund manager Renaissance Technologies, gave it $1 million. Six other Long Islanders chipped in $220,100.

After Obama authorized the super PAC Priorities USA to aid his re-election bid, it raised $20.5 million and spent $13.5 million on ads.

Obama's team has focused on its joint fundraising committee, the Obama Victory Fund. It has collected $2 million on Long Island. In this effort, the presidential campaign fund Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee split the fundraising take.

Romney's team couldn't start its joint fundraising effort, Romney Victory, until after he clinched the delegates needed to win the nomination. But it has raised a lot of money quickly, including $941,100 on Long Island since April.

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