Potential 2012 Presidential Candidates Give Big in 2010

Romney, Palin gave hundreds of thousands to candidates.

By + More

Even before campaign 2010 ended, campaign 2012 had already begun. Over the past year, buzz has steadily grown around a crop of potential Republican contenders for the presidency. The list of over a dozen GOP politicians reflects a wide variety of political experience, from veteran presidential contenders, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, to rising stars of the right, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. None of these GOP prospects have stated outright that they intend to run in 2012. But should they choose to run, many of these most-mentioned pols may start their campaigns with a base of political support already intact. Some of the top Republican contenders for 2012 were also big spenders on the 2010 campaign trail, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican congressional candidates. [See a gallery of Tea Party cartoons.]

Politicians most often donate to each other via three routes: they can donate from their candidate committees, out of their own pockets, or through leadership PACs--committees that politicians often form to support other candidates or as precursors to campaigns for higher office. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney far and away leads the field in 2010 contributions, having donated nearly $690,000 to 232 federal candidates via his leadership PAC, Free and Strong America, as well as from his own pocket. Former Alaska Gov.-Sarah Palin is No. 2, but is over $430,000 behind Romney, with $254,500 in contributions.

Listed below are possible Republican presidential contenders for 2012, with the amounts that they contributed to federal candidates in the 2010 election cycle. Totals include contributions from politicians' leadership PACs and candidate committees, as well as personal contributions.

Name              Office    Contributions    No. of Candidates Supported
Mitt Romney Former Governor, Massachusetts $686,394 232
Sarah Palin Former Governor, Alaska 254,500 56
Mike Pence Representative, Indiana 252,000 108
John Thune Senator, South Dakota 233,000 35
Tim Pawlenty Governor, Minnesota 168,614 79
Haley Barbour Governor, Mississippi 156,500 52
Mike Huckabee Former Governor, Arkansas 156,500 52
Jim DeMint Senator, South Carolina 135,000 24
Rick Santorum Former Senator, Pennsylvania 74,000 44
George Pataki Former Governor, New York 3,500 2

Sources: Federal Election Commission, Center for Responsive Politics