In a sign that major Republican donors are growing eager to dump President Obama and the Senate Democratic majority, the biggest spenders of the GOP—those writing checks $15,000 and higher—have contributed $7.062 million in the first six months of the year, according the officials.
The donations are a significant endorsement of the new leadership at the Republican National Committee and Chairman Reince Priebus, who in January replaced Michael Steele after two troubled years. According to internal tabulations, Priebus raised more in his first six months than Steele did over two years when he raised $7.02 million from major donors.
Analysts say that's good news for Republicans and shows that donors and activists are starting to warm to the upcoming election, even though most of the GOP presidential candidates aren't receiving much help major donors. In fact, over the weekend as Republicans revealed their latest fund-raising totals, much was made of the lack of help from big donors. [See a gallery of cartoons about 2012 GOP presidential contenders.]
Priebus has swiftly turned that around at the RNC where he has placed a premium on winning back major donors. Many had fled the party for other GOP organizations during Steele's chairmanship. To do that, Priebus promised to cut costs, slash spending and expenses. Insiders say he has rewritten consulting contracts to better favor the RNC, ended many subscriptions, and cut headquarters staff by over 20 percent.
It's worked. Party officials say that from January to the end of May, the RNC under Priebus netted $12 million after expenses compared to some $861,000 during the same period under Steele, even though the two raised nearly identical amounts during their first five months.
They say that Priebus has also put a focus on paying down the RNC's $23 million debt, even it if hurts his fund-raising headlines. For example, the party recorded expenses for the first six months of $25 million, but that included a $5.8 million debt payment that Priebus didn't have to make. Had he not made that payment, the party would have some $12 million cash-on-hand and favorable headlines, but associates said that he needed to show that he was cutting the debt and moving the party into fiscal solvency.