Type of organization: Super PAC
Supports candidate: Mitt Romney
Founded: Oct. 8, 2010
- Carl Forti (co-founder): Romney’s 2008 political director. Adviser to American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. Co-founder of Black Rock Group, a strategic communications and public relations firm.
- Charles Spies (treasurer): Romney’s chief financial officer and counsel in 2008.
- Larry McCarthy (co-founder): Member of Romney’s media team in 2008. President of McCarthy Hennings Media, Inc.
- Steve Roche (fundraiser): Former top fundraiser for Romney in 2008 and until August 2011.
During the 2012 election cycle, no other super PAC raised as much money as Restore Our Future, which collected nearly $154 million thanks to a network of deep-pocketed individuals, companies and parnterships.
In all, nearly one-third of the money Restore Our Future raised came from individuals and organizations in the financial sector, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And nearly half of the early money raised by the pro-Romney group was from financial industry sources, with especially large contributions coming from hedge fund and private equity managers.
Restore Our Future’s staff includes Larry McCarthy, known for the infamous “Willie Horton” ad that helped sink Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis in 1988. The group ran attack ads in Iowa that were widely credited with undermining former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s popularity and boosting Romney to a very close second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
In fact, during the GOP presidential primaries, more than 93 percent of the nearly $43 million the group spent was on negative ads, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
With its lush bank account, it dramatically outspent Romney’s rivals and their allies and helped carry Romney to victory over Gingrich and former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum, who were both substantially aided by super PACs during the extended primary fight.
Romney attended several of Restore Our Future’s fundraising events, including a dinner in New York on July 19, 2011. The dinner was also attended by one of the PAC’s million-dollar donors, John Paulson, the hedge-fund manager who made billions betting against the housing market. In addition to his contribution to the super PAC, Paulson was also a leading fundraiser/bundler for the Romney campaign and hosted a money bash at his home in the Hamptons during the summer of 2011, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.
Several big-dollar contributions to Restore Our Future came from obscure businesses suspected of being shell corporations to mask the identity of the actual donors.
On multiple occasions, Restore Our Future refunded corporate contributions and then accepted the same amount of money from individual donors instead. Two of these situations involved former employees of companies that Romney himself used to work for.
Additionally, in February, the group refunded a $100,000 donation from the Rod and Leslie Aycox Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was legally prohibited from donating to the super PAC.
Among the super PAC’s early donors were two other mysterious corporations, which each invested $1 million in Restore Our Future’s success: F8 LLC and Eli Publishing, which share an address in Provo, Utah. They are connected to prominent Mormon businessman Steve Lund, the vice chairman of the board of nutrition and cosmetics company Nu Skin, and former Nu Skin lawyer (and Lund son-in-law) Jeremy Blickenstaff.
Another Mormon business executive, Frank VanderSloot, has used a network of corporate accounts connected to his cleaning products, cosmetics and vitamins company, Melaleuca Inc. — which has been accused by some of being a pyramid scheme — to give $1 million to Restore Our Future in August of 2011. VanderSloot also personally gave the super PAC $100,000. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Melaleuca further directly spent more than $200,000 on pro-Romney television and radio advertisements by Election Day.
Notably, Restore Our Future also received $2 million from the sons of hotel magnate John Willard Marriott, after whom Romney is named: J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., and Richard Marriott, both influential Mormon businessmen, have each contributed $1 million to Restore Our Future. Romney previously served on the board of directors of the Marriott hotel chain and after his loss in November, he rejoined the company’s board.
In August of 2012, Restore Our Future received a $1 million contribution from reinsurance company OdysseyRe of Conn., a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of Canadian insurance and investment management giant Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited. While officials with both companies maintained that the transaction complied with all U.S. campaign finance laws, Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Center for Public Integrity that OdysseyRe’s donation raised “some legal red flags.”
Restore our Future spent exclusively to aid Romney during the GOP primary. After becoming the Republican presidential nominee, the super PAC nicknamed “Romney’s Death Star” turned its sights on President Barack Obama, spending about $100 million during the general election, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
- Restore Our Future’s anti-Gingrich ad, ran in Iowa just before the primary.
- The “Right Experience” ad attacked Santorum with several misleading claims, Factcheck.org reported. It ran in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi.
- The “Reagan” ad run in Florida said that despite Gingrich’s constant Reagan name-dropping, Gingrich “is no Ronald Reagan.”
- The anti-Santorum ad “Values” aired in Michigan.
- Another anti-Santorum “Own Words” ad aired in Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennesee. It went after Santorum for voting for bills that included support for Planned Parenthood.
- “Doing Fine” was part of a summer campaign taking advantage of a quote by Obama saying, “The private sector is doing fine.”
- “Disappearing” refers to those who have dropped out of the workforce and criticized Obama for the economic recovery.
- For more ads, see Restore Our Future’s YouTube channel.
Last updated: Jan. 17, 2013
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